As I watch the graduates parading proudly around my Brooklyn neighborhood, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we handle high-school education in this country. When I attended high school in suburban Maryland, engineering wasn’t considered a subject. We had English, all the sciences, math, music, social studies, even home ec, but engineering was absent. And no, this isn’t one of those “my how times have changed since I was young” stories. Things haven’t changed, at least by much; and that’s not good, given the challenges that lie ahead.
My thoughts are inspired in part by the DiscoverE Summit, sponsored by ASME, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the National Engineers Week Foundation, and DISCOVER magazine. Back in February I had the pleasure of joining three outstanding K-12 educators from across the country—Javaris Powell, Shella Condino, and Derek Sale—as they were celebrated for their commitment to STEM education (science, technology, engineering, math) and for the extraordinary impact they’ve had on their students.
Javaris, Derek, and Shella all teach in underserved communities. But lack of money and supplies isn’t their most troubling problem. Javaris told me that the most difficult part of his job is breaking through his students’ own stereotypes: