Wanted: A Nation of Bill Nyes. Making science mainstream, fun, and relevant. Part 3.

As many have noted, the number of students who pursue a career in a STEM field fall well short of the demand from industry and see this as the problem. On the other hand, I see this as the result of the problem. At some point between toddler years and middle school, the inherent curiosity of a child fizzles; overtaken by media and gadgets. Have a question? Look it up on the Google app (I’m not criticizing Google. It is the best tool for any scientist). We, and our children, are constantly connected to everything going on in the world. For some it is politics or business, but for our children, it is Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift. To me, again, this is not the problem.

Let’s take a couple of other celebrities as examples: Brad Pitt and Will.i.am. We all know Pitt as an actor, however, we know him just as well for his charity work through the Jolie-Pitt Foundation. Will.i.am is a musician but is also into science as seen through his support for FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) and its robotics competition. These are two examples of celebrities using their fame for a greater good.

STEM has an image problem in the United States. (A great survey sponsored by Microsoft showing the perception of STEM by students and parents can be found here). According to a study by Lenovo, the second leading hesitation to a career in STEM for U.S. students is that it requires too much work or school. The number one reason being that the student doesn’t feel confident in their ability. Here is the disconnect…if the passion and curiosity of the world around you and how to make it better is not there or hasn’t been curated, a STEM career is considered too much work. My Ph.D. took 6 and a half years to complete. I never once considered giving up or considered it too hard or too much work. To me, it wasn’t work. I felt lucky to be able to do what I loved and get paid for it.


5 Replies to “Wanted: A Nation of Bill Nyes. Making science mainstream, fun, and relevant. Part 3.”

  1. I’ve really enjoyed following these posts. Because most of my own research regards science and environmental education, your urgency to see STEM improved and promoted is encouraging. As I think you mentioned, a lot of the issues stem (ha!) from the burden placed on secondary educators. I spend a lot of time in science classrooms observing teacher-student interactions, and I see the educators outside of the classroom, and I am bewildered at the amount of pressure these people are under. So long as we “teach for the test,” it’s questionable that students will ever be empowered and encouraged to invest in what excites them about STEM ed. Maybe that’s why some people start blogs…it’s a little, grass-roots way to chip away at this massive problem! ; )

    Tomorrow a presentation about STEM education from a professor at the University of Colorado, Denver will be posted at toseescience.org

    In light of your posts, it might interest you.

    Keep up the enlightening writing and content!


    Jason Abdilla

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