PCAST Responds to Joint Letter about K-12 STEM Education

Throughout the year, FABBS, its member societies, and a wide array of social science societies have engaged with the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). Earlier this year, we asked PCAST to affirm that all sciences are needed to address the nation’s many challenges, and we expressed concern about the “culture of science” problem that leaves our sciences excluded from many discussions about STEM and STEM education.

As reported in a recent new piece, PCAST released its long-awaited report in September 2010 that called on the Administration to implement a number of recommendations to transform K-12 science education. Members of the behavioral and social sciences community were troubled by a section of the report which seemed to exclude our sciences from K-12 STEM education. In the report, PCAST stated that while the behavioral and social sciences are … “appropriately considered STEM fields at the undergraduate and graduate levels, they involve very different issues at the K-12 level.” The report did not address what these different issues were, so in October 2010, thirty-five societies prepared a joint letter to PCAST to ask for clarification about why a new vision for science education would not include all the sciences. The letter also asked PCAST to “reconsider its apparent exclusion of these sciences.”

On November 10, 2010, we received a reply from PCAST. We appreciate that PCAST took the time to respond by letter to the concerns of our scientific communities. The PCAST reply acknowledges a great respect for the contributions of social and behavioral sciences research. The reply also states that the PCAST report  “… does not mean to say that ‘STEM Education’ should not include social and behavioral sciences.” Rather, PCAST stated that the section of concern (Box 1-1) “aims to define the scope of topics considered in the report,” namely the traditional STEM subjects and a few other areas.

It is true that our sciences have not been a part of the traditional science education curriculum. Our efforts this year, both with PCAST and the National Academy of Science, have been to encourage many of the nation’s science leaders, those who have a seat at the table, to make sure that all sciences are included in the Administration’s efforts to build a coherent vision for science and create a new and robust science education curriculum that will prepare children for the challenges they will face in the 21st century. Perhaps we have raised awareness. Our sciences have much to contribute, and we are in it for the long haul.

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See the full letter and follow a timeline of other letters, and statements regarding this report »