Current Reading

This blog is primarily for me to blog my responses to books that I'm reading. Sometimes I blog about other stuff too, though.

I'm currently reading Against Method by Paul Feyerabend.

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Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Final thoughts on _They're Not Dumb, They're Different_: The policy consensus side

In her conclusions (pages 83-86), Sheila Tobias starts off going in a promising direction:  She briefly questions the forecasts of a shortage of scientists.  These questions are so juicy, so refreshing, that for a moment I was taken to the present!  (Where a few people--just a few, mind you--are starting to question that narrative.)  I felt like maybe I'm reading something from the here and now, not the 1990's.  But after acknowledging that we can't be certain, she moves on to make recommendations rooted in the consensus assumption of a 1990's science education researcher.  I shall quote the bottom of page 86:
The first step is a moral and strategic imperative: no college student should be permitted to say "no" to science without a struggle.
I cannot imagine anyone in a modern university calling for such an overbearing push to get more students  into humanities.  I cannot imagine majoring in humanities being declared a "moral imperative."  The STEM pedestal is an astounding thing.

Anyway, Tobias goes on to recommend the formation of an industry of advisers, mentors, recruiters, and STEM education and pipeline professionals who will devote all of their efforts to trying to get more students into and through science programs.  To a large extent the National Science Foundation has done as she recommended more than a generation ago.  There is indeed an industry of such people, largely funded by NSF.  She wasn't the only person urging this, and such an industry was already present in some form then, but we see how the elite chatter of a generation ago to some extent does shape the enterprises of today.  John Maynard Keynes was right about "practical men" being "slaves of some defunct economist."  Even as we hear rumblings against the notion of a "STEM crisis", tremendous numbers of well-funded people proclaim their desire to seek "data-driven best practices" to solve a crisis whose existence was proclaimed as gospel a generation ago.

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