Chasing the STEM degree myth

Monday Moan – April 13, 2015
By Jeff Salisbury
Chasing the STEM degree myth
The Paper Chase
The Paper Chase was a 1973 film starring Timothy Bottoms, Lindsay Wagner, and John Houseman, which was based on John Jay Osborn, Jr.’s 1970 novel.
The Paper Chase, it tells the story of James Hart, a first-year law student at Harvard Law School, his experiences with Professor Charles Kingsfield (played by Houseman in an Academy Award-winning performance), a brilliant, demanding contract law instructor, and Hart’s relationship with Kingsfield’s daughter. Houseman later reprised his role in a TV series of the same name that lasted four seasons. (Wikipedia)
The term “paper chase” later entered the American lexicon and the urban dictionary coming to mean any efforts to take course work, apply for financial aid, etc. in order to obtain a college degree or a earn a professional license.
While the fictional “paper chase” of the book, movie and TV show was a law degree, the paper chase of 2012-2022 is a STEM degree which is fiction too.
According to at least one researcher who studies the field and data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics clearly demonstrates that going after a STEM degree is an ill-advised paper-chase.
What is STEM?
STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math
What is STEM Education?
STEM Education is a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in four specific disciplines — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — in an interdisciplinary and applied approach. STEM and the theory that jobs in STEM disciplines will be on the increase and in high-demand in the next decade and beyond drove, in large part, the decision by WUS Board of Education to borrow $3 million to add a wing on the high school with “mortgage payments” of nearly $300,000 a year from 2015-2025 earmarked from casino funds.
WUS is not alone. Just Google “stem high school program” or “stem high school curriculum” or even substitute “middle school” for “high school” and you’ll get tens of millions of hits. STEM is a really big deal and big money to public schools, educators, colleges, vocational institutions and perhaps most especially all sorts of corporations lining up to sell STEM books, materials, software and course materials. In fact, such is the state of STEM-fever (or “movement”) in this country that US News & World Report magazine actually produces a “Best STEM High Schools” in American list.

And what are the effects of buying into the STEM myth?
An over-supply of STEM workers stagnates or drives down wages – Business & Industry wins.
Training job applicants relieves companies of the cost of investing in workers – Business & Industry wins.
Shifting tax dollars to STEM programming robs K-12 of potential revenue – Public Schools lose.

What does all this mean for the Wayland Union Schools Board of Education?
Well, it means trustees must do their homework and make strategic date-based decisions about how they will allocate and spend tax dollars.
And tax dollars – which are scarce and precious – must not be spent chasing myths.

The STEM Crisis Is a Myth
Forget the dire predictions of a looming shortfall of scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathematicians
By Robert N. Charette
You must have seen the warning a thousand times:
Too few young people study scientific or technical subjects, businesses can’t find enough workers in those fields, and the country’s competitive edge is threatened.
It pretty much doesn’t matter what country you’re talking about—the United States is facing this crisis, as is Japan, the United Kingdom, Australia, China, Brazil, South Africa, Singapore, India…the list goes on. In many of these countries, the predicted shortfall of STEM (short for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) workers is supposed to number in the hundreds of thousands or even the millions. A 2012 report by President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, for instance, stated that over the next decade, 1 million additional STEM graduates will be needed.
And yet, alongside such dire projections, you’ll also find reports suggesting just the opposite—that there are more STEM workers than suitable jobs.
One study found, for example, that wages for U.S. workers in computer and math fields have largely stagnated since 2000.
Even as the Great Recession slowly recedes, STEM workers at every stage of the career pipeline, from freshly minted grads to mid- and late-career Ph.D.s, still struggle to find employment as many companies, including Boeing, IBM, and Symantec, continue to lay off thousands of STEM workers.
A Matter of Supply vs. Demand:
Every year U.S. schools grant more STEM degrees than there are available jobs. When you factor in H-1B visa holders, existing STEM degree holders, and the like, it’s hard to make a case that there’s a STEM labor shortage.
To read more:…/education/the-stem-crisis-is-a-myth#

Fewer workers and less competition for job openings
Labor force projections to 2022: the labor force participation rate continues to fall
During the 2012–2022 period, the growth of the labor force is anticipated to be due entirely to population growth, as the overall labor force participation rate is expected to decrease from 63.7 percent in 2012 to 61.6 percent in 2022.
To read more:

Majority of jobs in the next decade will NOT require post-secondary education
Employment Projections: 2012-2022
–Over the 2012-22 decade, 50.6 million total job openings are expected. While growth will lead to many openings, more than two- thirds–67.2 percent–are projected to come from replacement needs.
–In more than 4 out of 5 occupations, openings from replacement needs are projected to exceed openings from growth.
–Nearly two-thirds of all job openings are expected to be in occupations that typically do not require postsecondary education for entry. (See table 7.)
–Twenty-two of the 30 occupations with the largest number of projected job openings are classified as not typically requiring postsecondary education.
To read more:

Please attend the next Wayland Board of Education meeting
Wayland Union Schools – Board of Education Meetings & Workshops
April 20, 2015 Wayland Union Middle School, 701 Wildcat Drive, Wayland – 7:00 p.m
May 18, 2015 Wayland Union Middle School, 701 Wildcat Drive, Wayland – 7:00 p.m
June 8, 2015 Wayland Union Middle School, 701 Wildcat Drive, Wayland – 7:00 p.m
June 22, 2015 Administration Building, 850 E. Superior, Wayland – 7:00 p.m
July 13, 2015 Administration Building, 850 E. Superior, Wayland – 7:00 p.m
During the PUBLIC COMMENTS, tell Board to:

  1. Question Every Aspect of the District’s Essential and Non-Essential Educational Programming and Personnel (Needs versus Wants)
  2.  Set General Fund & Casino Revenue Spending Guidelines
  3. Track and Trim All Expenditures & Make Targeted Programs & Personnel Cuts


  1. “Build ONE Budget” – combine general fund revenue (local, state and federal dollars) and Gun Lake Casino “in lieu of taxes” revenue.
  2. “Pay Yourselves First” – restore the fund equity – which dipped from 15% to 7% in four years – by committing to saving 1% to 1.5% per year for AT LEAST the next 5 years.
  3. “No More Loans” – resist the temptation to borrow more money on top of the $291,000 annual loan payments to United Bank for the science wing from 2015 to 2025… no loans for iPads, no loans for  school buses – no more loans PERIOD.

Nancy Thelen, President, Email:
Phone: 616-877-3098
Tom Salingue, Vice-President, Email:
Phone: 269-792-2061
Toni Ordway, Treasurer, Email:
Phone: 269-910-3297
Theresa Dobry, Secretary, Email:
Phone: 616-681-2119
Janel Hott, Trustee,   Email:
Phone: (h) 269-792-0297  (c) 269-250-0286
Gary Wood, Trustee,  Email:
Phone: 616-681-2120
Pete Zondervan, Trustee, Email:
Phone: 616-450-1468