Boys and Girls: Our Future STEM-Soldiers

Our world is witnessing dramatic change: While civilization is advancing at lightning speed, we are also on the razor’s edge of a catastrophe caused by shortages of natural resources, food, commodities, and water. Unless we tap the knowledge, abilities, and energy inside each of us, especially those who represent our next and future generations, the very existence of the human race may be at risk.

To address this threat and ensure the right steps are taken, our approach must be inclusive. Indeed, some are already responding to the challenge by making sure that young females are being educated and trained in areas that will prove critical in future–namely, the sciences, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM. Among others, the American Office of Science and Technology Policy, in collaboration with the White House Council on Women and Girls, have pushed hard for funding, programs, and facilities that will ensure female participation.

But women aren’t the only ones at risk of being unprepared. In fact, while many might believe that males, especially young boys, don’t need this kind of support, it is just not true. It is imperative that they also get prepared to do their part. Unfortunately, this is not happening to the extent it should–and must. Groups like the Foundation for Male Studies (FMS) are pressing for a level of backing that can make a real difference, but they are in a minority and looking for support from you.

The fact is that for humanity to tackle the threats that put every one of us at risk, it is necessary that our children, both boys, and girls, have the opportunity to become what might be described as STEM-soldiers, who can develop innovative and sustainable solutions to our most pressing challenges. We are facing a war of subsistence that politicians, the media, and globalism elites rarely discuss or even acknowledge, but the innovative ideas that the STEM fields can bring to existence are our only hope for keeping us alive.

Clean Water Scarcities and STEM

Of critical importance are our nation’s fresh water resources, notably underground aquifers, which supply 97% of rural populations and which are being drawn down at unsustainable rates. Rivers and lakes are also running dry: the mighty Colorado River seems a shadow of its former self, while at Lake Meade, fed by the Colorado, water levels are lower than they have been in over 40 years.

Meanwhile, increasingly sparse spring rivers originating from winter thaws in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota are full of turbidity–muddy substances that lengthen and increase the cost of purification. Combine this with inadequate and broken distribution systems, including the one in Flint, Michigan, where corroded pipes are leaching poisonous heavy metals into drinking water supplies, and you get one thing: “Houston, we have a problem.”

Indeed, America’s future depends on environmental and infrastructure improvements that can ensure every citizen has access to this precious commodity. Beyond our borders, the issue is even direr: 85% of the world population lives in the driest half of the planet, leaving 783 million people who do not have access to this life-giving elixir. According to UNICEF, the deaths of 1,800 children each day are linked to inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene facilities.

Short of a miracle, science is the only thing that can address such challenges.

Food Shortages and STEM

There are plenty of other causes for concern. Right now, for instance, one in seven Americans struggles to get enough food to eat. If water shortages become more persistent, leading to rationing and other such measures, our nation’s agricultural industry will be adversely affected, making it increasingly difficult to satisfy our needs at a time when we have little choice but to keep producing more.

Again, things are even worse in other locales. The horrifying truth is that, across the world, approximately 21,000 infants die in their mother’s arms each day because of starvation. According to the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization, 9.5 billion people will inhabit our planet by 2050, which means food output will have to increase 40% by 2025 just to keep up. Given that, brilliant young (and old) minds will need to be more creative and consider how science and technology can improve crop and other yields, enhance packaging, and ensure that what is produced gets to where it is needed.

Pollution and Rare Earth Mineral Shortages

Not all the problems we face involve the essentials. In some cases, we face shortages of resources such as rare earth minerals, which are frequently the key ingredients in powerful new technologies, especially those considered “green.” In contrast, the ever-growing number of gasoline-powered cars on the road is affecting the air we breathe and leading to an increase in pollution-related health woes that contribute to 30,000 premature deaths every year.

Other parts of our ecosystem have also not been spared. According to a report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, discarded plastic is set to outweigh fish in the world’s oceans by 2050. A recent report noted that thirteen sperm whale carcasses washed up on Germany’s North Sea coastline with stomachs full of discarded plastic and human trash. While subsequent research pinned the blame for the deaths on other factors, it is clear that something has to change.

Even the skies above us are not immune to the issues that threaten our very existence. After fifty-four years of space exploration, Earth has been left with millions of pieces of space junk cluttering its lower orbit, creating hazardous conditions that could impede exploration missions and the kind of innovative research that may help solve the problems we face here on the ground.

From the sky to the oceans and everywhere in between, our planet has suffered a great deal of harm that will require intelligent and novel approaches to turn things around. These, in turn, will require the effort of knowledgeable and talented scientists, researchers and others who have the knowledge and the training to figure out what needs to be done and how–before it is too late.

The Importance of STEM

The U.S.–and the rest of the world, for that matter–must be prepared for all the challenges by ensuring that the STEM curriculum and related aspects are available and accessible to as many as possible. While not all will have the abilities and skill sets to take advantage, such an approach will help ensure there are sufficient numbers of smart individuals creating a tidal wave of scientific and technical advances that will help us survive and thrive.

Moreover, if we don’t take these steps right away, we may find that others will move past us, unconcerned about whether we are keeping up. China, for example, is expected to push 200 million students through higher education and provide three years of pre-school to 40 million children, or 70% of the overall total, by 2020. To ensure that others can take advantage, we must guarantee that we target the very same areas –science, technology engineering, and mathematics–that competitors have set their sights on.

Help Build an Army of Young STEM experts

There’s no doubt that at least some efforts are being made to ensure this happens. As noted earlier, hundreds of millions of dollars are directed toward boosting the numbers of young women who graduate from college with degrees in math and science, ready for a STEM-dependent world.

But this is an equal opportunity mission: boys and men are an important part of the equation. To this end, Dr. Edward Stephens and the Foundation for Male Studies (FMS) is seeking financial support through a run for boys initiative that will help fund the first literacy-based charter school for boys, with a goal of introducing science to this group at the age of five. (In fact, those who can are encouraged to come and run in the race and help underwrite a very worthy cause).

Announcing the Foundation for Male Studies Charter School for Boys

With such efforts, we can unleash the scientific inspiration of as many children as possible. Sadly, while countries such as Canada, China, Australia, and the United Kingdom have launched taxpayer-funded efforts to augment and enhance the educational achievements of boys, U.S. federal and state governments have no such programs–or plans for them. This is unacceptable–and one reason why the FMS is taking the initiative.

FMS is seeking to increase the level of literacy, as well as numeracy–the mastery of mathematics and spatial relationships–beginning with those in kindergarten though grade 2, with another grade level added to that range each year. In some respects, the timing has been driven by Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) data, which has revealed, among other things, growing gaps between male and female literacy.

As FMS envisages it, boys who enroll in these specialized charter schools can take part in pioneering approaches to learning the core disciplines of our future, free of the restrictions imposed on traditional schools. One reason for starting so young with STEM skills is the learning gap grows larger as children grow older. While barely noticeable in kindergarten, the divergence expands significantly by grade 4 and jumps more than 50 percent by grade 12.  At that point, many boys either drop out or turn off completely.

To play a part in ensuring tragedies like this don’t occur, we all need to consider supporting an effort designed to ensure the next generation, more broadly speaking, has the opportunity to learn about and make use of what our future depends on. By signing up to the Foundation for Male Studies mailing list and supporting their efforts in any way we can, we can ensure our children’s future–and ours. Go ahead: be a part of the next wave of scientific exploration for human survival.


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