Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Addressing the Cultural Context of STEM Pursuits

I hope everyone had a very merry Christmas! Today, I'd like to share a blog entry Addressing the Cultural Context of STEM Pursuits | The White House. It provides links to numerous resources that consider race/ethnicity/gender and STEM education, training, and career development. Yes, we must maximize students' abilities and preparedness to take advantage of opportunities, and acknowledging cultural identity is an important aspect of this. But, it is important to remember that opportunity is realized through demand. While students must be aware of career "possibilities", educators and policy makers must also consider the societal and workforce relevance of the degrees they espouse.  Professional Science Master's programs are a relatively new way devised to meet existing workforce demand not met by traditional degree holders, but I know nothing of the demographics of this cohort.

In addition to increasing demand--here is the perspective of someone calling for an increase in expectation. Here is a link to the testimony (in 2008 before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights) of Richard Tapia, a Rice University Professor "demanding" that more minority students be directed to and better supported in elite undergraduate and graduate programs. Passively "steering" these students to lesser programs may increase the numbers of minority student, but will likely perpetuate stereotypes that minorities are under-achieving and cannot be leaders in STEM.

Just some food for thought.

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