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Karen Kaun

Co Founder - President, Knowledge iTrust

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STEM Crisis in America

Today I received an email from eschool News entitled, "Solving the STEM Education Crisis in America” and – as one who is actively engaged in teacher and student STEM education - the headline struck me as odd. Of course, there is good reason to ignite students interest is STEM. It's fun, it builds critical thinking skills, can help to find solutions to the most vexing problems and can re-vitalize ailing economies. But, is there a STEM “education crisis” in the United States? According to the Report to the President. Prepare and Inspire: K-12 Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) for America’s Future, there is, but in the same report it is also stated, “The United States has the most vibrant and productive STEM community in the world” (PCAST, 2010). That is certainly evidenced by the ideas and inventions of the folks in this community. So how can we have all these great thinkers and a crisis at the same time? And, if we do have a crisis, how can great thinkers like you support innovative approaches to STEM education in our schools?

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  • Sep 5 2011: simple, get the non-teachers out of the system. you've got psychologists, education department bureaucrats, and the school board, all full of people with absolutely no expertise or even experience in education all telling good teachers what and how to teach. is it any surprise that education in america has gone downhill? the few brilliant minds rise in spite of the system, not thanks to it.
  • Aug 24 2011: The US' educational system is as 'good' as its health care system.

    Most Americans still think some dashing and daring explorer dubbed 'Christopher Columbus' discovered their now homeland in a gush of pomp and pageantry. Not a mass-murdering, gold obsessed loon named Cristobal Colon who didn't even as much as SPOT the American coastline (despite taking credit for it!), but literally 'ran into' the Americas on his way to India; then proceeding to expunge a generation of indigenous Americans simply because they didn't value gold / materialism as his polluted mind did and because their females were better looking!

    This is a mere example of why the term 'Idiot America' has become an axiom.
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    Aug 24 2011: I think the important metric is the percent, not the quantity. Yes, we do graduate some very gifted STEM scholars, but a ridiculously high percentage of our graduates can barely find their way around a linear algebra problem.
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    Aug 23 2011: of all the countrys, for meeting math standards, the u.s places in about the middle. thats pretty bad.
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    Aug 24 2011: Hello Erik and Tim. I have been working with hundreds of elementary students in the Bronx, NY over the past three years and they may not be able to find their way around a linear algebra problem (yet), but they can build complex circuits with multiple inputs and design their own solar cars. The point is give them a stimulating challenge that requires the mathematical reasoning and I believe they will learn much of the math. Here's what the Inspire (PCAST, 2010) report had to say "Put together, this body of evidence suggests that grade-school children do not think as simplistically about STEM subjects as conventional curricula assume. They are capable of grasping both concrete examples and abstract concepts at remarkably early ages. Conventional approaches to teaching science and math have sometimes been shaped by misconceptions about what children cannot learn rather than focusing on students’ innate curiosity, reasoning skills, and intimate observations of the natural world." At the end of the day, I don't have all the answers, just ideas and observations based on what I've seen students do in the classrooms with the challenges we give them. Really, it would be wonderful if they had access to the TED community. Many of you would be great mentors for the these budding inventors.
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      Aug 27 2011: I like your case for how we might solve the current crisis and create motivation for kids to learn, but your point doesn't mean we aren't having a crisis under the system we are trying to run now.