During the 2016 presidential campaign, it was Hillary Clinton who talked about spending federal money to provide more STEM education — especially computer science classes for all students. Donald Trump wasn’t much interested then — and his proposed fiscal 2018 budget didn’t spread much love in that direction either.
(From Washington Post/ by Valerie Strauss) — It zeroed out one of the Education Department’s main programs that could be used for such a purpose, and it eliminated funding for NASA’s education office (which, among other things, oversees efforts to support women and underrepresented minorities in STEM fields).
Now, he’s changed his mind.
The White House issued a memorandum Monday (see text below) directing the Education Department to spend $200 million a year on grants that promote science, technology, engineering and math education, and “particularly computer science.” It noted that only 18 percent of high schools accredited to teach Advanced Placement had computer science classes, and that minorities, students in rural communities and girls are less represented in computer science education than other students.
The memo doesn’t say exactly where the money will come from, but it is not new money but rather funds already in department grant programs that can be used for this purpose.
The push for improving STEM education, especially for girls, has been a priority of Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and adviser, who has appeared at several events with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to promote it.
The theory behind the push for STEM education is that it will help solve what some say is a gap between STEM jobs and qualified Americans to fill them, though this is not uniformly true across STEM fields. Some argue, however, that a push for STEM education at the expense of the humanities won’t solve the STEM problem. In a recent post on this blog, Esther Dyson and Lucy N. Friedman said:
A new report from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) suggests so. Recently released technology and engineering literacy scores from NAEP’s Nation’s Report Card — which measures whether students are able to apply tech and engineering skills to real-life situations — revealed a 28-point gap between students from low-income families and their more affluent peers, and a 38-point gap between black and white students. This discrepancy must be addressed — not merely for the sake of the students left behind, but for the prosperity of our country and the health of our planet.
Yet we must be wise …