STEM alone is not enough

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

If one does a general Google search for STEM, there will be more than 60 million results. If you narrow the search to STEM education news, more than 70,000 articles will appear for the past year alone. The interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education has clearly become a national interest and priority, beginning as early as 2006 when President George W. Bush announced the American Competitiveness Initiative in his State of the Union message. President Obama has repeatedly called for and introduced legislation to support STEM education, and just recently, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the STEM Education Act of 2014.

The concerns of presidents past and present are about a changing economy and America's role in that economy. Those concerns are absolutely important and valid. And, the development of STEM education is important so Americans will be able to take their place in a changing work force.

But there is something missing -- something that so far is absent from the STEM education discussion. The fields of science and technology alone do not tell human beings how to use the knowledge or the technology. There is no formula for that. Rather, how knowledge and technology are used is framed by the moral values people hold. This is evident in the evolving technologies of warfare. The development of obliteration bombing of civilian populations in World War II raised significant ethical questions that science and technology alone could not answer. Another example, the development of the atomic bomb -- its delivery and long-term effects -- also raised significant ethical questions which went beyond the pale of science and technology.

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