My son attends a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) middle school program and so I keep an eye out for an STEM-related news. Earlier this month Business Insider ran a rather interesting story about the perceived STEM shortage in our nation, Americans Won’t Like Hearing The Real Reason That Silicon Valley Is Pushing So Hard For Immigration Reform.
According to Walter Hickey, author of the Business Insider article, “there isn't really a STEM shortage. There are plenty of graduates of technical fields in the U.S. There is a different kind of shortage, but the American people won't like to admit it.”
Hickey goes on to explain, “What there is, is a shortage of ultra-elite American-born talent, and Silicon Valley wants to hire the very best in the world. The view from Silicon Valley is that a lot of the U.S. talent, while bountiful in number, just doesn't stack up.”
So, it sounds like the STEM shortage is just a myth propagated by a select few companies and their executive teams that want to hire the best workers in the world. I understand the desire to hire the best but if you’re stepping on the backs of your fellow Americans to do this, then that is wrong.
The solution to this problem isn’t immigration reform. In my opinion, the solution is better STEM education programs here in the United States. If foreign workers, many of whom receive an American college education, are far superior to our own citizens then it is our education system that needs reformed, not the immigration system.
This is where programs like the one my son is attending come into play. As a sixth grade student, he completed almost the exact same biology course that high school freshmen take. The way his middle school is set up, students that start there in grade six will take AP biology as high school freshmen.
The school can do this because the middle school is actually housed on a local high school’s campus. So, the students have access to high school teachers and high school coursework as early as sixth grade. The advanced opportunities also apply to those students that are gifted in math. If a sixth grade student is ready to take geometry, then that is the math class she will take. A representative from the middle school escorts the student to the high school classroom and she takes geometry alongside freshmen and sophomore students.
Interestingly enough, the high school students have taken the middle school students under their wing; they’re proud of them and proud that their high school is hosting this unique program.
Our school district also offers a special STEM diploma at a different high school and although that program doesn’t start until ninth grade, it still gives STEM-interested students an advantage over their peers that don’t receive more intensive STEM education in high school.
I’m not saying that offering STEM classes to middle school students and beyond is the answer, but I am suggesting that it is part of the solution to the perceived STEM shortage here in the U.S.