Sunday, March 29, 2015

STEMing it

Lots of praise these days for Science Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM),  a few despairing wails for preservation of the classical liberal education.  What's a student to do?  Especially a student of ordinary means who has to get a job to support him/her/self upon graduation? 
   You want to think about what you want to be when you grow up.  Most of us would settle for well paid.  Boys often think of jobs like railroad engineer, fireman, policeman, soldier, pilot, sailor, musician, athlete, doctor, and so on.  Girls can have all those dreams (except maybe railroad engineer) and others besides.  Getting a job that you like doing leads to a happier life. 
   In the STEM world, an engineering degree (electrical, chemical,civil, mechanical) is the top of the hierarchy  for a career that is fun to do, well paid, and in demand.  Engineers design new stuff, buildings, bridges, products, ipads, cell phones, space craft.  Design is fun, it deals with new ideas, processes.  Engineers are the key people in real world industries, the industries that make stuff, rather than just push paper.  When the grave yard shift cannot made the new product go together, they call the design engineer at home.  They don't call the lawyer or the accountant or the manager, they call the engineer. 
  To do engineering, and the other STEM subjects, you need mathematics thru calculus.  Mathematics ain't hard, but you have to start early, high school.  High school has to give you algebra, Euclidean (plane) geometry, trigonometry.  With that you can take calculus freshman year in college.  Which is a pre requisite for most of the sophomore and up STEM courses.  If you get to college without the math, you can take it in college, but by the time you get the algebra, trig, geometry and calc courses in, you will be a junior, and that pretty much locks you out of a STEM major. 
  So about the time you finish up middle school, you want to do some serious thinking about what you want to be when you grow up.  Most likely, you won't have a clue at that age.  I didn't.  But think about it.  You don't want to lock yourself out of an engineering degree at the age of 15.  The smart student makes sure they get the necessary math courses in high school just in case they want to go on to engineering in college. If you skip the math in high school, you are forced into a liberal arts degree in college. 

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