Dr. Kamau Bobb continues the conversation with BlackEnterprise.com here.
BlackEnterprise.com: What is your advice for encouraging interest in STEM education at both the elementary and university levels?
Dr. Kamau Bobb: There is no easy answer to encouraging students to pursue STEM fields. Evidence suggests that large proportions of students of all colors are in fact interested in pursuing post-secondary STEM education or employment. There is no shortage of interest, however, there is most certainly a shortage of opportunity and a chasm separating those who are properly prepared from those who are not.
Privilege is as privilege does. There are ample opportunities for children of privilege to pursue their interests through camps, programs, special courses, adult encouragement, and resource-rich schools. By definition, this is not true for students climbing up the rough side. The heart of the larger social challenge is not encouraging student interest in STEM fields, rather it is providing them a structure to ensure success in their subsequent pursuit.
In some ways, young people are all the same. If you provide them an environment that is welcome and safe, and if you offer them an experience that is engaging, logical, and resonating, they will learn and thrive. That is as true for STEM subjects as it is for all others.
At the moment, there is significant emphasis on exposure to STEM activities, particularly for students of color. This is manifested in the array of robotics programs, coding camps, and hackathons all across the country. The objective is to trigger in young people an interest in pursuing computing as well as STEM fields more broadly. This is a critical, early-stage intervention.
The next stage is of equal importance. At all levels, K-12, developing a structured set of courses, academic support, and consistent encouragement is necessary for student success. Make no mistake; there is no escaping the reality that success in STEM fields requires an extraordinary amount of intellectual discipline and long hours of hard, personal work. Like anything else, there is no other path to mastery and intellectual clarity. As such, building an infrastructure to support that path for more students is the challenge.
My advice for encouraging success in STEM fields is to have that in mind. Once a student’s interest is piqued, forging the path to success is the next, natural step.
BlackEnterprise.com: Where can our readers find out more about your work and latest musings on these topics?
Dr. Bobb: I’ve written extensively on these topics, some of which have appeared in The Root, The Atlantic and The White House Blog. I also have a personal blog at Kamau Bobb. Also, please feel free to connect with me on Twitter @Kamau-b.