The NY Times Editorial Board ran a piece in last Sunday's Review section asking the question "who says math has to be boring?" The premise of the article was that American students are bored by math, science and engineering and even though they buy smartphones and tablets they don't pursue the skills necessary to build them. The high points of the article were that we need: 1. a more flexible curriculum; 2. earlier exposure to numbers; 3. better teacher preparation; 4. experience in the real world. All good thoughts. However, after I read all of it and reflected on it for a while, I finally shook my head and said to myself, "Really?"
I am convinced that STEM and its individual elements, particularly engineering, have a branding problem. Once I began to search the web I realized that isn't a unique conclusion. One of the best articles on the subject was published earlier this year when Angela Maiers, in the Huffington Post, hit the nail on the head with her article, which I missed at the time, Reframing, Rebranding and Reenergizing the STEM Conversation. She led off where my mind went after reading the NY Times piece when she said, "When it comes to encouraging more young women to pursue careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Math and Engineering), we need to forget the pep talks, the tactics, the reviews and the carrots. Here's the one thing that you're probably not doing -- but need to. REBRAND the Conversation!"
Clearly the conversation isn't gender specific, women just happened to be on Angela's mind. The key is that branding is not just superficial stuff like logos, tag lines, color, typefaces, etc... It is a lot more. In Angela's words, "Real branding is about selecting, cultivating and communicating with stakeholders the mission you want them to be part of." I couldn't agree more. The communication she refers to isn't just press releases and cameos by Barack and others on the subject it is about "story-telling" - letting kids know in language that they can relate to, what's in it for them. Why they should care is the key. My basic premise is that collectively they are informed and knowledgeable consumers of education. They want to care! They just need to understand WHY they should.
Angela ended her article with, "Your brand is not what you say it is...but rather what your stakeholders say it is. So I leave you with this, when our students hear the word "STEM" in a course or classroom, what does it mean to them?"
Answering her own question, "Here's what it should...
● An aspiration to create
● A passion to help humankind
● A strategy and opportunity to effect change
● A means by which you see yourself
● An art of make something useful
● A desire to impact the world
● Imagination amplified
● Hope, beauty, insight made visible
● The human capacity to plan and produce
● Human-driven and heart-fueled
● The change we can/must see in the world
Let's REBRAND the conversation, shall we?"
I agree, STEM and all of its individual pieces need to be rebranded. Glad I found your take on it Angela.