Issues of power and control in STEM education: a reading through the postmodern condition



STEM, or the integration of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, has rapidly become a dominant discourse in political, economic and educational spheres. In the U.S., the STEM movement has been boosted by global economic-based competition and associated fears, in terms of STEM graduates, when compared with other nations. However, many critiques question the nature and goals of this competition, as well as, the possibilities to improve STEM talents through the current dominant conceptualizations and practices of STEM education. In addition, the apparent lack of significant and coherent embracement of (and sometimes silence about) socioscientific and socio-political issues and perspectives renders STEM education incapable of preparing learners for active citizenships. Building on these critiques, I argue that these problems are possible consequences of STEM as a construct of power. My arguments are based on Lyotard’s conceptions of knowledge in postmodern society (as reported in The postmodern condition: A report on knowledge, University Press, Manchester, 1984), which I use to analyze some aspects of the STEM educational movement. Throughout the paper, I explore the construction of STEM education within competitive frames that place prime value on high performativity. There seem to be two characteristics of current STEM education that support performativity; these are an increased focus on technological and engineering designs, and a tendency for interdisciplinary education. At the same time, the eagerness for performativity and competition seems to drag STEM education into selectiveness, thereby jeopardizing its possible benefits. Recommendations are also discussed.


STEM education Interdisciplinary education Technology and engineering designs Socioscientific perspectives Postmodern condition 



Funding was provided by Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (CA)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE)University of TorontoTorontoCanada

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