Private sector to join Trump administration in STEM initiative
- According to Fast Company, a presidential memorandum signed by President Donald Trump Monday afternoon will direct at least $200 million annually in grant funding to STEM and computer science education.
- Additional efforts are also expected to be made under the order to boost computer science in both K-12 and higher ed, with the administration pointing out that under 50% of high schools don't currently offer computer programming and that physics wasn't offered by 40% of high schools in 2015.
- Private-sector participation is expected from companies including Facebook, Google, Amazon, Quicken Loans and GM, with more details expected at a Tuesday event in Detroit featuring Ivanka Trump and tech executives.
STEM skills have been among the highest in demand in the American workforce in recent years, and the Trump administration now joins its predecessor in pushing for greater focus on those skills beginning at the K-12 level. Among the Obama administration's efforts was an initiative to train 100,000 STEM teachers by 2021, as the ongoing teacher shortage plaguing many states has also been manifested in difficulty finding qualified teachers in a variety of specialty areas — particularly in rural and low-income districts.
How much further this new initiative will stretch beyond existing efforts already in place under the previous administration and the Every Student Succeeds Act remains to be seen. Under No Child Left Behind, reading and math were prioritized because they were the subjects tested. But ESSA calls for a focus on a well-rounded education across all subjects, leading to a trend in the adoption of the arts for a "STEAM" approach. The two areas don't have to be exclusive, and the soft skills provided by the arts are also in particular demand in the working world.
It's also worth questioning how this order impacts science education more generally, given that some have questioned whether the administration is waging a "war on science." Beyond that, science itself hasn't always been particularly well-received in American education in general, with questions about climate science and evolution more frequently becoming topics of controversy as a result of a variety of special interests. That's unlikely to change, but for the nation to move forward on STEM ed in a meaningful way, a line will need to be drawn on science education broadly.
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