March 25, 2013

Letter: STEM of education past

— Many readers will recall the World Book Encyclopedia salesmen, later to be replaced by Encyclopedia Britannica. Parents with young children were fair game for the salesmen. Everyone wanted their children to be well educated and those books would do the trick.

The bookcase arrived and was filled to the walls with shiny new books with gold embossed letters, covered with imitation leather. The entire setup was very attractive. It would have been more appreciated had someone in the family been willing to open a few of the books just to look at the pictures if nothing else. Maybe some influence of those idealistic stories from salesmen and fantasies of young parents would have placed the United States of America above the level of 17th in the world in education.

Now we come to the new trends for exciting parents with the prospects of that wished-for miracle. Their children will somehow acquire that gold embossed certificate called a college degree via STEM. We have a new super ideal to propel the United States into the next century just like Encyclopedia Britannica did in the ‘60s; it’s being called STEM.

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) are the academic areas where we, as a nation, are sorely lacking. Just like World Book and Britannica, the promise of creating a super-educated family within the society misses the mark by several grade levels. Just like the days when books gathered dust on shelves seldom visited, student minds have been allowed to gather dust from lack of stimulation and drive.

College and university professors complain that many of their students must undergo remedial instruction before they are ready for college work. The late 20th century and now into the next, the student academic levels have stagnated or dropped from k through 12 with a mere few rises in the first three grades of elementary school.

Locally, the high school graduation rate is shameful for any industrial nation, state or community in the world. But still, we in the U.S. have the highest dollar investment in education of any industrial nation in the world.

Somehow the powers that drive the idealistic train are not overcoming the lack of spirit needed to move the load. Unless or until the fantasy world collapses and reality catches on, there is no amount of academic elitism that will overcome the STEM of academic laziness.


Lawrence Headrick

Tunnel Hill