In my family, dad was a mechanical engineer and mom a librarian.
So it is perhaps not surprising that two of my brothers became engineers, and two of us leaned to the literary. My sister, being the youngest, had to adjudicate: she’s an attorney.
Somehow, though, my love of the written word didn’t quite pass on to my own children.
Both boys gravitated to the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
I made it through the upper levels of calculus and took a couple of probability and statistics classes in college, but I never was as quick to grasp math as my boys. I probably became pretty useless at helping them with homework by the time they reached eighth grade.
Not that I wouldn’t try. I would stay up until the wee hours, reading their texts and going on the Internet, trying to recall what I once knew, only to marvel at how my younger son could call up his college-student brother, and get not just an answer to his AP question, but an entire lesson, off the top of Son No. 1’s head.
Son No. 1 muses about doing something in cybersecurity, about catching bad guys. Son No. 2 is inclined toward engineering.
If you believe what you hear, that should mean my boys are headed in the right direction. After all, aren’t companies dying for computer whizzes and engineers, even in this shaky economy?
Would it be that life was so simple. The reality is that math and science are not easy subjects. Getting a STEM-related college degree is hard, and the best jobs typically require graduate work. It takes a certain grit to succeed.
That perseverance needs to be instilled at a young age, with hands-on labs and a commitment to high standards. Judging from my kids’ experience, good teachers matter, so we should do more to recruit those well-versed in the subjects, especially if they bring practical, real-world know-how.
Hand-wringing about developing STEM talent won’t solve the problem. But perhaps more collaboration between schools and business will.