Streams

Next Gen STEM

Friday, March 15, 2013

Margaret Honey, president and CEO of the New York Hall of Science and editor with David Kanter of Design, Make, Play: Growing the Next Generation of STEM Innovators, discusses the new book and the programs that support science, technology, engineering and math learning. Tom Kalil, deputy director for technology and innovation at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and contributor to the book, will add to the discussion and take your calls.

Guests:

Tom Kalil and Margaret Honey

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Comments [31]

Laurence from Brooklyn is right about parents in general not being particularly interested in math and science education. This corresponds with a general absence of solid science instruction in public elementary schools, as noted by Jennifer from New Jersey. My child's elementary school teachers in Brooklyn were generally lacking in knowledge of basic scientific principles. He had to learn about science on his own until middle school. No big deal but when the parents also do not value or understand science or math, the kids get to middle school already at a disadvantage. This carries over to high school and beyond.

By middle school, I started to hear parents in Brooklyn complain that students who gain entry to the Specialized High Schools are "drones" who work too hard. In other words, they are putting down the kids who are succeeding in math and science. These are educated, middle class people in NYC!

Eddy comments that to much focus on engineering risks fetishizing it at the expense of the arts. I experienced the opposite phenomenon of parents and schools that focused on reading, writing, art, and more writing (and sports too). Within my son's elementary school, parents only wanted to talk about arts enrichment. Valeen from Park Slope typifies this trend. She wants to talk about putting art into science.

I agree with Eddy, in that I fear this STEM initiative is yet another educational fad. Education in the US seems to be uniquely subject to fads. We've encountered quite a few in my son's 11 years in the public system. They are introduced with breathless talk about how the new thing will inspire kids to write, read, compute, create... whatever it is... and then we will jolly well catch up with other countries. A few years go by, and the talk dies down only to be replaced by the latest fad.

Pursuing an engineering or science science education is difficult and hard. Many university programs have a high admit rate but lose a lot of students along the way. Students enter these programs without a solid math and science education and they cannot handle the work.

Maybe no system is perfect. Maybe rather than discovering a whole new brilliant idea every few years, we would be better off examining what we have and making incremental changes, while carefully observing and measuring the results every step of the way. But that is not the American way. We are not interested in measured, incremental responses. We are always hoping to find a magic solution. I predict the current STEM initiative will fall by the wayside in another three or four years. I hope I am wrong!

Mar. 16 2013 10:26 AM
Noach (Independent) from Brooklyn

Slavoj Zizek, from the transcript of a speech delivered at Occupy Wall Street:

"What do we perceive today as possible? Just follow the media. On the one hand, in technology and sexuality, everything seems to be possible. You can travel to the moon, you can become immortal by biogenetics, you can have sex with animals or whatever, but look at the field of society and economy. There, almost everything is considered impossible. You want to raise taxes by little bit for the rich. They tell you it’s impossible. We lose competitivity. You want more money for health care, they tell you, "Impossible, this means totalitarian state." There’s something wrong in the world, where you are promised to be immortal but cannot spend a little bit more for healthcare. Maybe we need to set our priorities straight here. We don’t want higher standard of living. We want a better standard of living."

http://www.imposemagazine.com/bytes/slavoj-zizek-at-occupy-wall-street-transcript

Mar. 15 2013 01:57 PM
Noach (Independent) from Brooklyn

"MichaelB from Morningside Heights" wrote,

"What about the culture of entertainment that permeates youth culture that simply dominates most young folks' lives and minds?"
and,
"And if young people are bored for 2 minutes, they tune out....that's the cost of making it all about entertainment and engagement. "

Highly valid, germane points.

"fuva from harlemworld" wrote:
"This push-button, dopamine-addicted gadgetocracy produces a lazy, non-critical-thinking, consumption-driven, hedonistic zeitgeist. It affects, amongst many other things, the attitude toward education."

That has to be one of the greatest comments I've seen yet! You sum it up so well.

Let me add something that seems to be like the "elephant in the room that nobody talks about" (or whatever that cliché is): the practically endless glut of pornography that abounds on the internet.

Back when I was growing-up, it was still somewhat of a feat even for a /teenager/ to get his hands on a /Playboy/. Today, children at younger ages than ever have incredibly easy access to all manner of content that makes the likes of Playboy look _wholesome_ by comparison.

Material that is shockingly base, degrading and even violent and sadistic abounds. There is no form of perversion or depravity that is not glorified and fetishized.

Surely, unhealthy attitudes toward sexuality and women (and, in the case of gay porn, /men/ as well) are promoted and breeded by such smut. And can there be any doubt that it plays a major role in both:
a) the general increase in promiscuity among youth of increasingly younger ages that has been reported for some time now, as well as,
b) an alarming increase in the incidence of practices such as fellatio and even anal penetration among said youth?

And yet, with the notable exception of certain feminists, we hardly hear any condemnation-- or even acknowledgement-- of this cultural cancer, do we? (Other than from the dreaded "Religious Right", that is...)

Mar. 15 2013 01:45 PM

Noach, until our citizens consider "health" to be a resource, NOT a commodity, there will be no single payer health care.

Mar. 15 2013 12:19 PM
Noach (Independent) from Brooklyn

jgarbuz wrote, (10:50 AM):
"Yes, makers of "things" are better for the economy than makers of news, laws, fictional books, or just plain noise."

What about reckless, wild speculation; glorified gambling, in other words: Wall Street?

Remember when Allen Greenspan acknowledged that markets were actually not rational but subject to fear, whim, whimsey, caprice?
..........
@ sburgernutr:

"In the last 10 years I've seen many of the great small group pediatric practices merge into mega pediatric practices due to the increasing paperwork necessary to get paid by the for profit health insurance industry."

"[...] many pediatric practices have given up and are no longer on provider panels because the onerous process of trying to convince the insurance industry[...]"

"The people getting paid these days are basically those that come up with ponzi schemes to profit from others, not those who actually do something of benefit to the entire population."

These are strong arguments for a non-profit, single-payer system of health care, as Marcia Angell, M.D., and many others advocate.

"private insurance bureaucracy and paperwork consume one-third (31 percent) of every health care dollar. "-Physicians for a National Health Program
http://www.pnhp.org/

Mar. 15 2013 12:04 PM
Rebeca Greif from Nassau County

a picture is worth 1,000 words
they don't look bored to me ..
http://makerfaire.com/
Call For Makers World Maker Faire New York 2013
Where: New York Hall of Science
Entry Opens: June, 2013

Mar. 15 2013 12:04 PM
amy from ny

You really want innovators to get inspired? Show them how to actually make an actual living at doing their work and how to actually get their innovations sold, used in a way that actually lets them pay the bills. And get the business community INCLUDING the big banks, to understand how innovation makes financial sense in terms of this country's social as well physical infrastructure. (somehow, neither potholes nor healthcare seem to touch them)

In a country where too many dismiss both evolution and real math (odd, since real math is based on the periodic table/see Benford's Law, and I don't know which verse of the Bible they're thinking of using to fight bioterrorism/cure cancer, whatever), the emphasis placed on making money based on faulty risk analysis, in the short term over longer term results and consequences, is INSANE.
And writing a good business plan while useful, is about only the confines of making money and brand building, not sustainability that until recently is starting to show up in the ideas held by bCorporations, for example.

THE MATH FOR BOTH THE ECONOMICS AND THE SCIENCE MUCH MATCH UP:
I'm not yelling, I'm just trying to emphasize the most ridiculous dichotomy now present in our educational system, that somehow you can believe your way out of a financial crisis using fake math/science: (creationism) which say, cannot explain how the earth is 10,000 years old, yet say the oil industry gets tax breaks for bringing to market a substance, oil, that is 60 million years old. Please explain how teaching creationism in science class properly prepares those students for future jobs in the energy industry even in the next 10-50 years, officers of the law, members of Congress, please :/ . (for e.g. http://news.stanford.edu/pr/94/940804Arc4170.html)

Science is about the next 10-50 years of consequences, and real math can project ideas that last actively as much as 100. Citizens United brought us a political system that inspires the 24 hour news cycle and attention spans that seemingly defy quantum mechanics. So I'll end this by saying thank you for having a 10 minute segment on this subject, but next time, please give it a full half hour like you do with other topics.

Mar. 15 2013 11:58 AM

Jennifer, the "trick" would be to get a student engaged through real world experience (I realize it's much much easier said than done). Do that and the conceptual understanding follows as a matter of course.

PS: I'm an electrical engineer, but I won't take your comment about engineers personally ;-)

Mar. 15 2013 11:42 AM

Just ask any pediatrician whether medicine is still a money based profession. In the last 10 years I've seen many of the great small group pediatric practices merge into mega pediatric practices due to the increasing paperwork necessary to get paid by the for profit health insurance industry. On the Upper East Side, many pediatric practices have given up and are no longer on provider panels because the onerous process of trying to convince the insurance industry to actually cover what they are supposed to cover is too much of a bureaucratic burden. The people getting paid these days are basically those that come up with ponzi schemes to profit from others, not those who actually do something of benefit to the entire population.

Mar. 15 2013 11:42 AM
Henry from Manhattan

mklw1954 said,
“The money-based professions of finance, law, and medicine are far more attractive to bright young people so it won't matter if the science and engineering education system is changed.”

I agree. There’s not so much potential for high salaries in the sciences. Scientists and engineers end up having to work in academic institutions or large companies. It’s hard to be an entrepreneur as a scientist or engineer like how you can open your own medical, law, or finance firm. Maybe computer coding is an exception.

In the sciences, one is stuck earring what others determine the value of your work to be. A scientist has to really love what they do. With other careers, the sky’s the limit and one can go it alone if they desire, which is attractive to intelligent and motivated people.

Mar. 15 2013 11:33 AM
Jessie from Inwood

I agree that good science teaching is important. I also agree that it would be fabulous to have more people educated in STEM fields. HOWEVER there's something very important missing from this conversation.

When I was in college, I majored in biology. I did it mostly because I loved biology but partly because I'd been told for my whole life that "America needs more scientists, mathematicians, and engineers!" Majoring in biology felt almost patriotic to me. My intent was go on and get a PhD in biology, but I decided to take a job in a laboratory before starting my graduate work.

I got a job at the Stroud Water Research Center, a small research institution in Lancaster, PA. In a lot of ways it was an amazing place to work- but the job still convinced me that becoming a PhD scientist would be a terrible, terrible idea.

Why? Well, here are two examples of footsteps I didn't want to follow in:
-There was a certain post-doc who was 35 years old and did good scientific work (not stunningly brilliant, but good). He told me that he'd never paid income tax because he'd never earned enough money to owe income tax. I don't need a lot of money, but I don't want that kind of poverty for myself.
-I noticed that several of the senior scientists didn't like living in the area. (It was Amish country- not the easiest place to fit in.) They didn't belong and would have been much happier in a different place. However, they felt they couldn't move because they'd never get another research job. In many fields, new PhD's, even in scientific fields, feel lucky to get even one decent job offer. Thus, you have people living in places they don't like at all. That's not very appealing.

The fact is that professional opportunities in many STEM fields stink. Sure, there are some shortage areas where people are in high demand, but that's very different from the popular conception. Simply wanting to do science or math is not actually very marketable. I was, and am, interested in several areas of biology: evolution, ecology, plant biology, plant genetics, crop development. All of these have poor job opportunities.

Now I'm a math and science teacher. In science, especially, I think I do a very good job: lots of inquiry based labs, lots of questioning, a strong emphasis on critical thinking, etc. But, I'm very hesitant to encourage my students to pursue careers in science or mathematics. Instead I tell them that science is wonderful for its own sake and if they want to be a scientist they should look into job opportunities in their field before they commit to a graduate degree.

Mar. 15 2013 11:20 AM

The main reaon given for young people not going into engineering is the education system. I'm a civil/environmental engineer in my 50s and the real main reason is the relative lack of earning power in science and engineering. In our money-obsessed, bottom-line society any bright young person looking into careers will quickly learn that it takes an engineer about 12-15 years to earn what someone out of a good law school and starting at a good law firm will earn. The engineering professional societies' approach to this is to try to attract women and minorities to the profession, probably because it is assumed they will work for less.

The money-based professions of finance, law, and medicine are far more attractive to bright young people so it won't matter if the science and engineering education system is changed.

Mar. 15 2013 11:09 AM
Henry from Manhattan

A caller brought up the objection that I did below.

Okay, so the US has strong innovators due to creative learning. Okay, I’ll buy that.

Mar. 15 2013 11:07 AM
fuva from harlemworld

This push-button, dopamine-addicted gadgetocracy produces a lazy, non-critical-thinking, consumption-driven, hedonistic zeitgeist. It affects, amongst many other things, the attitude toward education.

Mar. 15 2013 11:04 AM
Jennifer from New Jersey

As a science educator at a science center and someone who is pursuing a MAT teach biology, I agree with many of the points, but I also feel they are missing the boat. I see in their comments and at the center where I work, STEM is being reduced to engineering to the omission of other sciences and math. As a trained biologist, I believe all the sciences are important for our future. I also do not hear anyone addressing how to engage students who not in these programs because their parents are not into science and don't go to science centers or they lack the funds to participate in programs. Informal science education, but it cannot be the cure all. We need to address school science programs - more contact with science practitioners and changes in standardized curriculum that favor broad memorization rather than substantial learning.

Mar. 15 2013 11:02 AM
diane from brooklyn

Oh, if this is so important, why aren't children's tv shows filled with the essential basics of science and math and the reality of disciplined learning in an entertaining way?

Mar. 15 2013 11:01 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

The old Soviet Union ground out millions of BAD engineers. Some good ones too, of course. In the final analysis, the quality is based on innate talents, but if kids are not exposed to hands on work in a positive basis, potentially talented kids never get a chance to develop their latent capabilties.

Mar. 15 2013 11:00 AM
Laurence from Brooklyn

I am a scientist and a professor.

My students are math phobic and science phobic. Why? Because it is OK by their parents and our culture. They have embraced "learning styles" as an explanation- they just cannot do it because they are not wired that way. Anything that is difficult to do confirms this false idea. They cannot use technology to do anything other than download music and post things to Facebook. They have little interest in how things work. Very sad.

Mar. 15 2013 11:00 AM
patricia from new jersey

I have two girls, 3rd grader and 5th grader. I am an engineer and want to get them more involved in science and math. I have two great science camps that I am willing to pay to send them to. They are not interested. How do I get them interested? Now is the time.

Mar. 15 2013 11:00 AM
The Truth from Becky

Really Peg?!, now I know why we are behind China!

Science, Technology, Engineering, Math

STEM!!!

Mar. 15 2013 10:59 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

And if young people are bored for 2 minutes, they tune out....that's the cost of making it all about entertainment and engagement.

Sometimes a subject is just dry and the student needs to learn enough so that the subject itself -- the challenge of thinking abstractly -- is enough to engage him or her.

Mar. 15 2013 10:59 AM
Eddy

Fetishizing STEM at the expense of the humanities kills both of them. Innovation occurs by bolstering the role of music and the arts in education. Otherwise, we are turning out varying degrees of drone bees and dummies.

Mar. 15 2013 10:57 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

What about the culture of entertainment that permeates youth culture that simply dominates most young folks' lives and minds?

The previous guest Rich Lowry mentioned what the culture is in so many colleges -- party schools!

As to what Mr. Kali just said about learning, that may be true, but for generations, schools taught in the "old fashioned way" (think HUGE lecture halls) and we LED the rest of the world in technology and more.

So why is it that kids nowadays need to be "entertained" to learn, compared to generations past? (See the earlier part of my comment!)

Mar. 15 2013 10:55 AM
Henry from Manhattan

Okay, the US is falling behind China, India and Mexico in science education.

Margaret Honey stated the problem as being the US is still teaching the old fashioned way, yet it doesn’t seem like the other countries are teaching science in some new fangled fashion.

Mar. 15 2013 10:55 AM
Valeen from Park Slope, Brooklyn

There is a great new museum that is in the early stages of being organized called the Brooklyn Museum of Science and Art. They are trying to bridge the gap in schools and education between Art and Science. They are also trying to emphasize the addition of Art into STEM, making it STEAM. I think this would be worth discussing in this piece.

Mar. 15 2013 10:55 AM
Peg

What does STEM mean????????????????

Mar. 15 2013 10:55 AM
mc from Brooklyn

Oh, yes! By all means, let's have more "things."

Mar. 15 2013 10:54 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

The main problem with K-12, especially high school, is that liberals have made the purpose of basic education being to get to college rather than to get to work!

Mar. 15 2013 10:53 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Yes, makers of "things" are better for the economy than makers of news, laws, fictional books, or just plain noise.

Mar. 15 2013 10:50 AM
Noach (Independent) from Brooklyn

Shouldn't the header to the segment on this page tell us what "STEM learning /is/"?

Mar. 15 2013 10:49 AM
Bob from Brooklyn

Sounds like a great book. I wish conservatives were more into science and math. We would all be better off.

Mar. 15 2013 10:46 AM

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