You know that weird old uncle who fancies himself the family comedian? Usually his “comedy” revolves around pretending that he’s confused by the wackiness of today’s newfangled technology, as if he’s some sort of unfrozen caveman lawyer. “What’s that? You just bought an iPad?” he’ll say. “What is that, some sort of patch that pirates use?” Often this exchange is followed by multiple elbows to the ribs and the repeated phrase, “Get it, eye pad!”
That’s exactly how I feel about this NYT article on STEM education entitled (ugh) “STEM Education Has Little to Do With Flowers.”
Now you know that I love puns as much as the next guy, but only as a way to communicate valuable insights (or at least make people laugh). This article doesn’t do either. Perhaps the most upsetting thing to me is that the writer of this article got really smart people to play into her game. Eric Lander, co-chairman of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and head of the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University is actually quoted as saying:
When he first heard the term, he figured it was a too-cute reference to botany. “I thought, stem education? What about flower education?” he said. These days, given the public’s fixation on embryonic stem cells — progenitor cells that give rise to all the different tissues of the body — the potential for confusion is even worse. “People hear about STEM education, and they think some harm has come to an embryo in the process,” Dr. Lander said.
Really, Dr. Lander? Did you really think “what about flower education?” I sort of doubt it, unless you happen to also confuse pirate wear and Apple technology. But probably the thing that most bugs me is that I can’t imagine what the point of this article is. Is there a huge national crisis of lack of understanding of what STEM education is that is standing in the way of more STEM education actually happening in schools? I don’t think so. The lack of STEM education has to do with things like lack of qualified teachers, lack of funding for lab equipment and lack of interest by kids in learning “nerdy stuff” (which they don’t realize will allow them to do cool things like design video games).
We here at Prosperity Partnership think that STEM education is a key to our regional and national economic prosperity, and it’s going to continue to be a major focus of our efforts going into the next Regional Economic Strategy. And no pretend puns are going to stop us.