Culture Changes Affect Math, Science Education

Published in St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Letter to the Editor, March 11, 2012

Regarding “Schools are aiming to boost interest in science and math” (March 4): There are two additional reasons why our colleges and universities are not producing enough STEM graduates with the critical skills needed by today’s employers. First, research shows that the childhood of many of today’s scientists — particularly the large number retiring in the next decade — included discussing the space program around the dinner table, visiting national parks and museums on family vacations, collecting bugs, tinkering with machines on the farm or playing with the erector set or the “dangerous” chemistry kit that they received for Christmas. Virtual reality and video games are poor substitutes. It is no wonder that robotics and other hands-on experiences now are critical components of the pre-college curriculum.

Second, also indicative of the changes in our culture over the last several decades, is the demise of the work ethic that made this nation great. A major in science or engineering is hard work and must begin well before college, as indicated by the sad fact that about half of all students who enter college intent on majoring in a STEM field quickly drop out. Nothing can take the place of a rigorous regimen of well-crafted science and math courses and the encouraging, ongoing support of teachers, family and friends.

Our scientific and engineering prowess is integral to our national defense and prosperity. These, in turn, are necessary for a free society to create and enjoy everything that makes a culture worth preserving.

Andrew D. Shaw • Chesterfield

Director, STEM Education, Westminster Christian Academy