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What Is STEM, Anyway?

Natalie Angier at the New York Times wonders whether the focus on STEM education is helpful, and whether the acronym is obscuring the goal of a comprehensive science education. The Broad's Eric Lander tells her that when he first heard the term, he was confused. "I thought, stem education? What about flower education?" he say. Astronaut Sally Ride adds that the term is jargon-y and not helpful when speaking to the public about science education — indeed, a survey found that 86 percent of people did not know what STEM education was. Angier adds that technology and engineering were added to the focus, and the acronym, about 20 years ago and that coincided with a push to get industry to help pay for classroom education. Lander says that idea behind the acronym is sound. "Science is discovering the laws of the natural world, and mathematics isn't that, it's logical, deductive truth, and its experiments don't have error bars," he tells the Times. "And when you get to technology and engineering, it's the constructed world, and that’s different than the discovered one." Lander adds that he'd like a better term, but he's tried out "all four factorial permutations" and those that are pronounceable are already taken by baseball teams.

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