In a classroom session of Instructional Strategies (EDU6526) the point was made that the educational system currently puts a heavy emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects and that in the future, there will probably be an increase in the focus on Technology. While I agree with the assessment of the situation, I disagree with the direction. This disagreement comes from two areas; the first being I think there are many companies using technology that are incorrectly labelled “technology” companies, and second, in spite of the growth of the virtual world, we still live in a natural world and always will.
For example, I often hear Amazon referred to as a “technology” company and I disagree with that sentiment. Amazon does utilize a great deal of technology in their operations. They operate on the internet and through web-enabled mobile devices. But Amazon is really a sales, distribution, and logistics company. Their initial growth was fueled by being able to deliver a book to a purchaser at a lower price than a bookstore and do it fast enough the customer did not mind the negligible wait. Technology helped them manage the process, but it was successful because they had warehouses located in strategic areas allowing for timely shipping. And while they have added products like the Kindle e-reader, the purpose of these products is to sell more products. Amazon wants you to buy books from them, regardless of format. Technology is pervasive throughout the company, but they are not a technology company.
I am not opposed to high learning expectations for mathematics and science—I aspire to teach mathematics at the high school level—but I think we need to be careful about putting too much into these subjects. At the end of the day, we still live in the natural world, no matter how expansive the virtual world becomes. If our schools create nothing but scientists, computer programmers, engineers and mathematicians, who will grow our food and build our buildings? Will this become the domain of those who were not blessed with significant academic skills and those born into poverty and subjected to underperforming schools? Who will be our musicians and writers? Will we be subject to computer generated music in the style of the Beatles or Mozart along with books that are written by a computer programmed to emulate Shakespeare and J.K. Rowling? The educational system talks about how they shape the future, so we need to be mindful of what future we are shaping.