Holistic Approach to STEM Solution

A global perspective on addressing basic needs and strengthening skill sets.

Every country on the planet realizes that the men and women of tomorrow are basically their human capital and the core of the success or failure of their economy. Whereas many countries are exceeding in preparing their citizens to work in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, the leaders of United States are growing increasingly concerned with its lag in theses areas.

In looking at the education initiative, the holistic approach to advancement must be considered. The inventor and scientist, George Washington Carver's quote says it best, "Since new developments are the products of a creative mind, we must therefore stimulate and encourage that type of mind in every way possible."

Not Even Second Place
The leaders of the United States are concerned about its future as a major competitor in the world market. According to an article in the New York Times, "The National Academies, the country's leading advisory group on science and technology, warned in 2005 that unless the United States improved the quality of math and science education, at all levels, it would continue to lose economic ground to foreign competitors."1

The article goes on to say that, the United States ranks 27th out of 29 wealthy countries in proportion of college students with degrees in science and engineering. In addition, the New York Times commented that, "The World Economic Forum ranked this country (United States) 48th out of 133 developed and developing nations in quality of math and science instruction."

The United States recognizes that nations like China and India have made multiple revisions in their science and math educational systems in order to become better economic competitors with their global counterparts. These governments are investing more in the areas on monies and human capital in their quest to be world leaders.

STEM: One Possible Solution  
Globally, educators, scientists and politicians believe that the future of the United States depends on strengthening our workforce's skill sets. As a result, the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics education initiative, otherwise known as STEM, was created. It is believed that a highly skilled labor force will drive innovation and production during this shift from an industrial to information economy. Action steps are underway to increase education formats in the STEM areas beginning with early childhood up through the university level. 

The initiation of STEM activities is a noteworthy and innovative effort on the part of parents, educators, and politicians. Because of STEM, there have been great inroads to opening up educational and career doors for America's youth. But in watching daily news events, I can't help but wonder if a wider approach of some type must be consider to boost the initiative.

Holistic View to Consider  
However, in our fast-paced world, students are dealing with more day-to-day challenges (i.e. health, hunger, etc.) than the previous generations had to address while handling schooling and making career choices. I am not saying that there wasn't death, destruction and mayhem back in the day; I am saying that there is an increase in these elements that inhibit individual and national growth patterns.

It can be stated without debate that a human at a particular moment is usually motivated by his or her strongest need.  It would seem important therefore, the scientists, educators and politicians involved in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, otherwise known as STEM to incorporate basic human issues of youth while addressing the curriculum issues.

In order to have the motivation to even begin to think about book learning and career aspirations, basic human needs (e.g., a roof over your head, where your next meal will come from, how to relieve a painful, throbbing toothache) have to be addressed.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs  
You may remember somewhere during your college studies, the mention of Abraham Maslow's "Hierarchy of Needs" pyramid. Without reciting the entire course here, briefly Maslow's 1943 paper "Theory of Human Motivation"  with the follow-up book titled, "Motivation and Personality" states that once lower level needs have been met, people can move on to the next level of needs, which are safety and security needs.

There are basically two types of needs which affect our levels of motivation towards a particular issue, such as, a career in science. The first type of needs, known as deficiency needs, consists physiological, and security. Growth needs are the second type of needs are comprised of social, esteem and self-actualization.

While Maslow's body of work is close to seventy years old, I believe that his theory of motivation is directly related to the success or lack of success in moving students towards developing the STEM skills set needed for the future competitor world.

Addressing Deficiency Needs
We all know that once physiological needs (i.e. shelter, food and safety) have been satisfied, that the majority of humans seek self improvement from an intellectual standpoint. The following list includes what I believe are some deficiency factors impacting on the progress on intellectual pursuit and skill sets building for students.

For this article, please allow me the liberty to adjust the STEM acronym (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), into a SSTEM acronym for review. The deficiency factors are:

  • S1: Shelter
  • S2: Safety
  • T: Testing
  • E: Ethics
  • M: Medical

Continued on page 2 ...

Holistic Approach to STEM Solution

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