Recently, the new president of the Joe Foss Institute out of Scottsdale, Arizona penned a letter to members and supporters. In it he writes about school systems turning away from teaching history and social studies in lieu of ramping up science and math curricula. The argument for pushing the hard sciences goes like this: in order for American students to compete globally against countries like China and Finland, we have to raise the percentage of workers who have studied science, technology, engineering and math—STEM.
President Obama has made promotion of STEM a top priority. In his 2011 State of the Union Address, he devoted a good chunk of time to the issue of making America competitive through pouring billions into programs like STEM which are federally funded, but executed by the states.
A critic of the over-emphasis on STEM education, Lucian Spataro, Jr., PhD, President of the Joe Foss Institute writes:
Our schools, driven by an increasingly strong emphasis and funding for proficiency in the hard sciences (science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM) and standardized testing are producing students who are learning less and less about how our freedoms were earned and why they matter. The principles that provide the foundation for our entire system government —how our government works and how our constitution was developed—are no longer being taught in school or learned at home. When this happens, children do not gain an appreciation for the uniqueness of our freedom. The result? That which these students do not appreciate, they will not protect.
Spataro’s last statement bears repeating: “That which these students do not appreciate, they will not protect.” This profound thought could be applied to any person, child or adult; we take extra care of those things and people in which we invest our time and talents.
Mr. Spataro represents a truly patriotic organization putting much effort into educating children on the foundations of our exceptional republic. So this is why I am dumfounded that the Joe Foss Institute honored Michelle Rhee and her husband, Mayor Kevin Johnson of Sacramento at the Stars and Stripes Classic Gala last November.
Rhee and Johnson are nothing if not education-by-the-numbers reformers. They have very few talking points, but everything they espouse has one goal—to increase American children’s test scores by holding teachers accountable. They make no mention of what the teachers actually teach, only that they should prepare students to become globally competitive workers.
They don’t talk about the founding fathers. They don’t mention teaching students to protect their republic by learning why it was founded. Since Rhee doesn’t “get wrapped up in curriculum battles” she cleverly avoids disclosing what she thinks teachers should teach.
I would proffer that the JFI should not have honored Rhee and Johnson based on their propensity for using hard data to set education policy while they encourage the message that STEM education will make our country great.
Once again, we are left wondering whether the new education reformers really care about the children. Thank goodness we know the JFI does.
Originally published by Ann Kane on Potter Williams Report