It was confusing when, several years ago, Bill Gates blasted American education for failing to produce enough graduates in science, technology and engineering. Really? Not enough workers in those fields? At the same time that he was making these statements, I knew computer programmers and biologists who couldn’t find jobs and others who were facing stagnating and falling wages.
Yet, as with many positions Gates takes on education — often backed by sizable contributions to bolster his vision — this one took off and clung. Conferences are held on opening more high schools that specialize in STEM: science, technology, engineering and math. There have been suggestions that the nation should cut those pesky humanities departments and liberal arts degrees in colleges and universities. The Obama administration, which has bought into numerous educational shibboleths, has made it a goal to push for a million new STEM graduates in coming years.
Over the weekend, a Harvard researcher finally cast a more critical eye on all the hoopla. The conclusion: While the great STEM shortage isn't wholly myth, it certainly has been mightily overhyped.