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Using STEM to create new teachers

RE 'TEMPER the STEM emphasis' (Shawn Day Sunday Forum column, Sept. 22): This column about job prospects for STEM graduates and desirable workplace skills propagated several misconceptions.

The headline implied incorrectly that students earning degrees in science, technology, engineering and math are deficient in critical-thinking skills compared with graduates who earn other degrees. STEM graduates are problem-solvers, and critical thinking is at the very heart of all such disciplines.

The idea that, as the column says, 'job-specific skills can be learned at work,' also is profoundly wrong. Just because a new hire can 'think critically' in one field does not mean that he or she should be trained from scratch to work in a STEM field. Would you want such a trainee to work as a chemist in the lab that determines whether your drinking water is safe, or to work as a geologist to determine whether a new hospital site is located on an active fault line?

Students in every discipline learn to think critically about a particular body of knowledge, and I know from experience that our STEM graduates at Old Dominion University, for example, work hard throughout their college careers practicing doing just that.

The column fails to point out that there is a critical need for STEM graduates who are prepared to be educators. For many decades, science and education faculty members at ODU have worked together to prepare many students with STEM degrees to be highly qualified math or science teachers, most of whom are still working across the nation in high schools and middle schools. The attrition rate for teachers exceeds the graduation rate, however, so many more STEM teachers are needed nationwide than colleges now produce.

MonarchTeach, a new program at ODU, is designed specifically to allow STEM college majors to 'try out teaching' and see whether they want to consider being STEM school teachers. Eventually, the program will retain larger numbers of these students by providing scholarships and internships and by supporting them with mentors during their first years in the classroom.

Seed money from the state is funding the project for a few years, but like its sister UTeach programs at 34 other universities nationwide, MonarchTeach will need continuing support from benefactors across the region to prosper. MonarchTeach made a great start this summer by recruiting more than 50 incoming students for its inaugural class this fall, and it is on track to at least triple the number of highly qualified STEM teachers graduating from ODU within five years.  

Rich Whittecar

a thought

--somehow a college degree has become a status symbol, instead of a tool for advancement into the real world.--and it doesn't matter what the degree is in anymore.

--in reality, It's only a piece of paper you can proudly hang on your wall.--proclaiming to the world--LOOK AT WHAT I DID.--but then what?--go out and get a job doing what?--most are happy to get any job.--doing anything. --but people are needed out there for high paying jobs that can't be filled with the type of education being offered AND PROMOTTED BY COLLEGES today.

--that's one reason so many foreign college students are getting the jobs American students are not.--choices made at the very beginning by students that think ANY college degree is good enough for them, and their councilors are not telling them anything different.

--telling the child any college degree if good enough is wrong and the educational level of excellence in this country is showing it, as we fall further behind the rest of the world in almost everything.

--education is a wonderful thing--thinkers are needed in it to think of so many wonderful things--but we need people that CAN DO and PRODUCE all of those wonderful things--not just more thinking people going out and buying them from foreign countries that produce workers that know how to produce what they think of.

A thought

Mr. Papcin nails it.

so sorry

--no one is supposed to agree with me.-I'm against OBAMA and think he is a snake oil salesman, like they had in carnivals selling all of that garbage you buy and when you get it home it doesn't work.

--I'm like poison ivy that you can't get to close to or you might catch something, like morals or integrity. especially from a few young ladies that think the democrats are always right. that makes me always wrong, even if they agree with me.

Start early, teach more

One odd motif in the STEM debate is the notion that we can throw a lot of money at high school programs and, presto, the problems are solved. I think this is a lie.

We have to throw more energy and intelligence at elementary and middle school programs. Teach the kids in the early grades the basics of general science. Make sure they know how to do arithmetic (that is, get rid of Reform Math).

Our problems in the STEM area start when the kids first go to school. Their memories are hyperactive. They are ready to learn. The schools don't exploit the opportunities. The schools fiddle while the country burns.


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