The age of STEM


Humanities and STEM


  • Goodhart’s law: When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure
  • Bogost’s law: “By the time you get an acronym, something bad is happening”

Some basic points

  1. “STEM” marks the successful effort to make a previously incohered set of disciplines lie together that has only just been naturalized.
  1. It’s a term of art that makes sense first and foremost in the higher education world, without describing economics.
  1. But rather than talk about learning or disciplinary knowledge, it leads to talk of employment and underrepresentation.
  1. I don’t know where it’s going.


  1. Shop talk: 1999-2007
  2. STEM institutionalized: 2008-2011
  3. STEM naturalized: 2012-2018

The organization previously used the acronym SMET when referring to the career fields in those disciplines or a curriculum that integrated knowledge and skills from those fields. In 2001, however, American biologist Judith Ramaley, then assistant director of education and human resources at NSF, rearranged the words to form the STEM acronym.


Rising Above the Gathering Storm (NAS, 2007)

Finally, it posits the status of prosperity if the United States maintains a narrow lead (the current situation), falls behind, or emerges as the leader in a few selected fields of science and technology. We strayed from our charge in that we present not 10 actions but 4 recommendations and 20 specific actions to implement them.

Normalization, 2012-2017

Reddit tackles STEM diversity

  • It’s not Gender Equality until 100% of software developers are female (including everyone who decided not to major in STEM), and it’s not Racial Equality until there are no more whites!

  • “Yes I read it, they showed that more female faculty members are being hired and declared the negative bias against women in STEM fields dead. Except hiring more of a limited number of female applicants for faculty positions doesn’t address the fact that many female students aren’t majoring in STEM fields and going on to STEM jobs outside of academia.”

  • Who’s fault is that? No ones forcing them to not take those courses. It’s their own fault that they decide to pursue like “gender studies” or “African dance disco literature studies” instead of STEM. No shit they won’t get a STEM job if they major in gender-studies or African dance, there not qualified.

American Community Survey

Although our report falls far far short of an unequivocal endorsement of integrated approaches to STEM education, I know I speak for my committee colleagues in noting the exciting potential of leveraging the natural connections between and among the four STEM subjects for the benefit of students.

Margaret Honey, STEM Integration in K-12 Education: STATUS, PROSPECTS, AND AN AGENDA FOR RESEARCH. National Academies, 2014.

45.0603: Econometrics and Quantitative Economics. A program that focuses on the systematic study of mathematical and statistical analysis of economic phenomena and problems. Includes instruction in economic statistics, optimization theory, cost/benefit analysis, price theory, economic modeling, and economic forecasting and evaluation.

45.0601: Economics, General. A general program that focuses on the systematic study of the production, conservation and allocation of resources in conditions of scarcity, together with the organizational frameworks related to these processes. Includes instruction in economic theory, micro- and macroeconomics, comparative economic systems, money and banking systems, international economics, quantitative analytical methods, and applications to specific industries and public policy issues

What’s next?