The Case for STEM Education
by Rodger W. Bybee

Price at time of review: $27.95
116 pp.
NSTA Press
Arlington, VA
2013
ISBN: 9781936959259


Grade Level: K-College


Reviewed by David Tumbarello
Project Manger in the Department of Family Medicine


Does anyone disagree that education in the four STEM disciplines is necessary in order for students to develop 21st century skills? In this refreshing book from NSTA Press, Rodger W. Bybee refuses to accept the unquestioned premise of STEM education. Instead, he begins to outline ways in which the U.S. STEM yearly budget of $3.4 billion—less than 1% of annual federal spending on education—should be strategically used to serve our children. While it is incumbent to continually train teachers and improve technology in classrooms, the fundamental imperatives of STEM begin with national and local discussions about STEM imperatives, transition to dialogue regarding effective 21st century curriculum, and finally result in changes in classroom and infrastructure that is sustainable over time.

]The value of STEM education lies not in an appreciation of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, but in an aspiration for something greater. Bybee repeatedly references the Sputnik era and the space race to model how a motivating force creates sustained change. During the decade between Sputnik and landing on the moon, the goal was clear: to invest resources in education and development in order to land people on the moon within ten years. The goal was measurable and time delimited. With the current stem initiative, our students, teachers, and stakeholders need to aspire to something greater, to a common STEM framework with concrete goals. The author proposes specific avenues of development in the areas of health, energy, environment, and the use of natural resources with improvements in a 20 year window.

This text is an amazingly high–level presentation of the "challenges and opportunities" afforded to our children from President Obama to NCLB. A by–product of STEM initiatives should be the raising of test scores so that our international rank rises above mediocre. Additionally, educators should continue to impress upon our children the need for 21st century skills, such as creative problem solving, communication, virtual solutions, and systems thinking so the United States can continue to compete against scientific strongholds such as Singapore, Finland, and Hong Kong, and other countries that are actively developing young minds to lead in these areas in the future.

While the President of the United States can motivate by delivering speeches about STEM initiatives, it is up to state or district agencies to develop the policies, programs, and classroom practices that will help our children. Yet, the goal is greater than knowledge. The goal is the application of knowledge, which will have sustained economic and social benefits. As the title of this book implies, it is an exciting time to be an educator because with this historic challenge, we have a monumental opportunity. The Case for Stem Education is a necessary reference for anyone involved in negotiating the policies and practices that will impact teachers and students into the 21st century.


Review posted on 5/14/2013


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