Advertisement

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

Op-Ed

Abstract

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.

Keyword

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

Notes

Acknowledgements

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

References

  1. Aikenhead, G. S. (1996). Science education: Border crossing into the subculture of science. Studies in Science Education, 27, 1–52.  https://doi.org/10.1080/03057269608560077.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. American Honda Foundation. (2016). Grants for youth education. HONDA: The power of dreams. Retrieved from http://corporate.honda.com/america/philanthropy.aspx?id=ahf.
  3. Apple, M. W. (2001). Educating the “right” way: Markets, standards, God, and inequality. New York: RoutledgeFalmer.Google Scholar
  4. Apple, M. W. (2003). Competition, knowledge, and the loss of educational vision. Philosophy of Music Education Review, 11, 3–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bakan, J. (2003). The corporation: The pathological pursuit of profit and power. Toronto: Viking.Google Scholar
  6. Ball, S. J. (2012). Global education Inc.: New policy networks and the neo-liberal imaginary. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  7. Barton, L., & Slee, R. (1999). Competition, selection and inclusive education: Some observations. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 3, 3–12.  https://doi.org/10.1080/136031199285147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Beane, J. A. (1995). Curriculum integration and the disciplines of knowledge. Phi Delta Kapan, 76, 616–622.Google Scholar
  9. Bencze, J. L. (2008). Private profit, science, and science Education: Critical problems and possibilities for action. Canadian Journal of Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education, 8, 297–312.  https://doi.org/10.1080/14926150802506290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bencze, J. L., Reiss, M., Sharma, A., & Weinstein, M. (in press). STEM education as ‘Trojan Horse’: Deconstructed and reinvented for all. In L. Bryan & K. Tobin (Eds.), Thirteen questions in science education (pp. xx–xx). New York: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  11. Berlin, D. F., & Lee, H. (2005). Integrating science and mathematics education: Historical analysis. School Science and Mathematics, 105, 15–24.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1949-8594.2005.tb18032.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bernauer, T., & Meins, E. (2003). Technological revolution meets policy and the market: Explaining cross-national differences in agricultural biotechnology regulation. European Journal of Political Research, 42, 643–683.  https://doi.org/10.1111/1475-6765.00099.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Bourdieu, P. (1986). The forms of capital. In J. G. Richardson (Ed.), The handbook of theory: Research for the sociology of education (pp. 241–258). New York: Greenwood Press.Google Scholar
  14. Bourdieu, P. (1998). Utopia of endless exploitation: The essence of neoliberalism. Le Monde Diplomatique. Retrieved from: http://www.jinmusic.ca/papers/essence-of-neoliberalism.pdf.
  15. Breiner, J. M., Johnson, C. C., Sheats Harkness, S., & Coehler, C. M. (2012). What is STEM? A discussion about conception of STEM in education and partnerships. School Science and Mathematics, 112, 3–11.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1949-8594.2011.00109.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Brophy, S., Klein, S., Portsmore, M., & Rogers, C. (2008). Advancing engineering education in P-12 classrooms. Journal of Engineering Education, 97, 369–387.  https://doi.org/10.1002/j.2168-9830.2008.tb00985.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Bush, V. (1945). Science, the endless frontier: A report to the president on a program for postwar scientific research. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Business Roundtable. (2005). Tapping America’s potential: Education for innovative initiative. Retrieved from: http://tapcoalition.org/resource/pdf/TAP_report2.pdf.
  19. Carter, L. (2005). Globalisation and science education: Rethinking science education reforms. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 42, 561–580.  https://doi.org/10.1002/tea.20066.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Chevron (2015, May). Education. Chevron: human energy. Retrieved from http://www.chevron.com/corporateresponsibility/community/education/.
  21. Civil, M. (2016). STEM learning research through a funds of knowledge lens. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 11, 41–59.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11422-014-9648-2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Clark, E. T., Jr. (1997). Designing and implementing an integrated curriculum. Brandon: Holistic Education Press.Google Scholar
  23. Costa, V. B. (1995). When science is “another world”: Relationships between worlds of family, friends, school, and science. Science Education, 79, 313–333.  https://doi.org/10.1002/sce.3730790306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Cropley, D. H. (2015). Promoting creativity and innovation in engineering education. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 9, 161–171.  https://doi.org/10.1037/aca0000008.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Delpit, L. (1988). The silenced dialogue: Power and pedagogy in educating other people’s children. Harvard Educational Review, 58, 280–298.  https://doi.org/10.17763/haer.58.3.c43481778r528qw4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Etzkowitz, H. (2003). Innovation in innovation: The triple helix of university-industry-government relations. Social Science Information, 42, 293–337.  https://doi.org/10.1177/05390184030423002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gardner, P. L. (1999). The representation of science-technology relationships in Canadian physics textbooks. International Journal of Science Education, 21, 329–347.  https://doi.org/10.1080/095006999290732.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Gough, A. (2015). STEM policy and science education: Scientific curriculum and sociopolitical silences. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 10, 445–458.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11422-014-9590-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Harvey, D. (2005). A brief history of neoliberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Hayek, F. (1994). The road of serfdom. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  31. Hodson, D. (1998). Teaching and learning science: Towards a personalized approach. Buckingham: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Hoeg, D. G. & Bencze, J. L. (2017). Values underpinning STEM education in the USA: An analysis of the Next Generation Science Standards. Science Education, 101, 278–301.  https://doi.org/10.1002/sce.21260.
  33. Hurley, M. M. (2001). Reviewing integrated science and mathematics: The search for evidence and definitions from new perspectives. School Science and Mathematics, 101, 259–268.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1949-8594.2001.tb18028.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Johnson, C. C. (2012). Implementation of STEM education policy: Challenges, progress, and lessons learned. School Science and Mathematics, 112, 45–55.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1949-8594.2011.00110.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Klees, S. J. (2008). A quarter century of neoliberal thinking in education: Misleading analyses and failed policies. Globalisation, Societies and Education, 6, 311–348.  https://doi.org/10.1080/14767720802506672.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Klein, N. (2014). This changes everything: Capitalism vs. the climate. Toronto: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  37. Kuenzi, J. J. (2008). Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education: Background, federal policy, and legislative action. Washington, D.C: Congressional Research Service. Retrieved from: http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1034&context=crsdocs.
  38. LaPorte, J., & Sanders, M. (1995). Technology, science and mathematics integration. In E. Martin (Ed.), Foundations of technology education: Yearbook 44 of the Council on Technology Teacher Education. Glencoe/McGraw-Hill: Peoria, Ill.Google Scholar
  39. Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the social: An introduction to actor-network-theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Lyotard, J. F. (1984). The postmodern condition: A report on knowledge. Manchester: University Press.Google Scholar
  41. McMurtry, J. (2013). The cancer stage of capitalism: From crisis to cure. London: Pluto.Google Scholar
  42. Metcalf, Heather. (2010). Stuck in the Pipeline: A Critical Review of STEM Workforce Literature. InterActions: UCLA. Journal of Education and Information Studies, 6, Article 4. Retrieved from: https://escholarship.org/uc/item/6zf09176.
  43. Mirowski, P. (2011). Science-mart: Privatizing American science. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Moore, T. J., Tank, K. M., Glancy, A. W., & Kersten, J. A. (2015). NGSS and the landscape of engineering in K-12 state science standards. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 52, 296–318.  https://doi.org/10.1002/tea.21199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Motorola Solutions. (2016). Motorola Solutions Foundation. Retrieved from http://www.motorolasolutions.com/en_us/about/company-overview/corporate- responsibility/motorola-solutions-foundation.html.
  46. National Academy of Science. (2007). Raising above the gathering storm: Energizing and employing America for a brighter economic future. Washington DC: National Academies Press. Retrieved from: http://research.wsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/618/2015/11/Rising-Above-the-Gathering-Storm.pdf.
  47. National Research Council. (2011). Successful K-12 education: Identifying effective approaches in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.Google Scholar
  48. National Science Board. (2007). National action plan for addressing the critical needs of the U.S. science, technology, engineering and mathematics education system. Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation. Retrieved from: https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2007/nsb07114/nsb07114.pdf.
  49. National Science Foundation. (2014). Science and engineering indicators 2014. Retrieved from: https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/seind14/index.cfm/chapter-3/c3s1.htm.
  50. National Science Foundation. (2017). NFS scholarships in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (S-STEM). Retrieved from: https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2017/nsf17527/nsf17527.htm.
  51. NGSS. (2013). Next generation science standards: For states, by states. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Retrieved from: https://www.nap.edu/download/18290.
  52. Pedretti, E., & Nazir, J. (2011). Currents in STSE education: Mapping a complex field, 40 years on. Science Education, 95, 601–626.  https://doi.org/10.1002/sce.20435.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Pouliot. C. (2015). Quand les citoyens.ne.s soulèvent la poussière: la controverse autour de la pollution métallique à Limoilou. Carte Blanche.Google Scholar
  54. Rennie, L., Venville, G., & Wallace, J. (2012). Knowledge that counts in a global community: Exploring the contribution of integrated curriculum. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  55. RMC Research Corporation. (2011). Summary of funded Race to the Top applications: Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics activities in eleven states and the District of Columbia. Portsmouth: Center on Instruction.Google Scholar
  56. Roth, W. M. (2001). Learning science through technological design. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 38, 768–790.  https://doi.org/10.1002/tea.1031.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Roth, W. M. (2016). On the societal nature of praxis and organic research. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 11, 105–125.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11422-014-9617-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Sanders, M. (2009). STEM, STEM Education, STEMmania. Technology Teacher, 68, 20–26.Google Scholar
  59. Shanahan, M. C., Burke, C. A., & Francis, K. (2016). Using a boundry object perspective to reconsider the meaning of STEM in a Canadian context. Canadian Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education, 16, 129–139.  https://doi.org/10.1080/14926156.2016.1166296.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Sharkawy, A. (2015). Envisioning a career in science, technology, engineering and mathematics: Some challenges and possibilities. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 10, 657–664.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11422-014-9636-6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Steeves, K. A., Bernhardt, P. E., Burns, J. P., & Lombard, M. K. (2009). Transforming American educational identity after SPUTNIK. American Educational History Journal, 36, 71–87.Google Scholar
  62. Stevenson, H. J. (2014). Myths and motives behind STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education and the STEM-worker shortage narrative. Issues in Teacher Education, 23, 133–146.Google Scholar
  63. Teach for America. (2016). Science, technology, engineering and mathematic (STEM) initiatives. Retrieved from https://www.teachforamerica.org/about-us/our-initiatives/stem-initiative.
  64. Teitelbaum, M. S. (2003). Do we need more scientists? Public Interest, 153, 40–53.Google Scholar
  65. Tsupros, N., Kohler, R., & Hallinen, J. (2009). STEM education: A project to identify the missing components. Pennsylvania: Intermediate Unit 1: Center for STEM Education and Leonard Gelfand Center for Service Learning and Outreach, Carnegie Mellon University.Google Scholar
  66. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. (2015). H-1B fiscal year (FY) 2016 cap season. Retrieved from https://www.uscis.gov/working-united-states/temporary-workers/h-1b- specialty-occupations-and-fashion-models/h-1b-fiscal-year-fy-2016-cap-season.
  67. U.S. Congress. (2015, October 7). STEM Education Act of 2015. Retrieved from https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/1020/text/pl.
  68. U.S. Department of Education. (2009). Race to the top program: Executive summary. Retrieved September 22, 2015 from: https://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop/executive-summary.pdf.
  69. U.S. Department of Education. (2013). Green Strides: Environment, Health and Facilities at ED. STEM Programs at ED. Retrieved from http://www2.ed.gov/about/inits/ed/green- strides/stem.html.
  70. U.S. Department of Education. (2016). More about the NAEP technology and engineering literacy (TEL). Assessment, National Assessment of Educational Progress. Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/tel/moreabout.aspx.
  71. Vars, G. F. (2001). Can curriculum integration survive in an era of high-stakes testing? Middle School Journal, 33, 7–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Veenstra, C. (2014). The collaborative role of industry in supporting STEM education. The Journal for Quality and Participation, 37, 27–29.Google Scholar
  73. Weber, K. (Ed.). (2009). Food Inc.: How industrial food is making us sicker, fatter, and poorer- and what you can do about it, A participant media guide. New York: Public Affairs.Google Scholar
  74. Williams, J. (2011). STEM education: Proceed with caution. Design and Technology Education: An International Journal, 16, 26–35.Google Scholar
  75. Zeidler, D. L. (2016). STEM education: A deficit framework for the twenty first century?: Sociocultural socioscientific response. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 11, 11–26.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11422-014-9578-z.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Zollman, A. (2012). Learning for STEM literacy: STEM literacy for learning. School Science and Mathematics, 112, 12–19.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1949-8594.2012.00101.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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

Personalised recommendations