Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Crisis Is Happening Long Before STEM Decisions

There's a good article in IEEE Spectrum debating the notion that there's a crisis-level shortfall in the number of scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians (STEM). I would argue that such shortfalls come and go as people respond to economic incentives. If there aren't enough truck mechanics, the pay will increase until enough people become truck mechanics. At any point in time, there are career fields that have too many people and some that have too few. That's not a crisis, that's normal.

Arguments in favor of Doing Something and Making It A Priority talk about wasted human resources and the like. I agree with the concern for wasted human resources, but it's happening long before any career decisions that might lead to work in the STEM fields. The more I work with the poor and homeless and talk to my friends in the prison ministry, the more I see how the destruction of marriage is snuffing out successful lives before the kids even get to kindergarten. The lost souls we see on the street escaping abuse, turning to drugs, relying on prostitution or robbery to make a living and the folks in our overflowing prisons are totally dominated by this crisis demographic.

With some work, I can help a kid with math and science capabilities get into a STEM career, provided he has a stable and supportive environment at home. If he doesn't have that environment, no matter how much I push STEM, my friends and I are far more likely to see him in prison or down at the food bank.

In related news, Phil Robertson was suspended from his A&E show, Duck Dynasty, for supporting the crucial building blocks of STEM.

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