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Amidst STEM Push, Ways to Avoid 'Technical Ghettos' in Some Schools

Now that there is a push for STEM education and funding is being allocated to ensuring tech in all classrooms nationwide, it’s important to discuss the opportunity it poses to students. Does the emphasis on tech actually guarantee students of color a leveled playing field?

Well, a recent article shows that it is still necessary to following a certain criteria in order to avoid what The Atlantic is calling a “technical ghetto.” In Melinda D. Anderson’s report she speaks to officials who are looking to make sure that all children have the same opportunities in education.

“Kamau Bobb, the program director in computer-science education at NSF and Brown’s colleague, notes that the dominant argument in support of youth of color learning to code is to ‘get a good job’—creating a stratified system where students from racial and ethnic groups, and lower socioeconomic backgrounds, are prepped for work as service technicians and helpdesk agents,” according to the report.

“’While those [tech jobs] are needed and noble, they are at the very bottom … in terms of pay and prestige,’ he said.”

Meanwhile Bobb says that white and middle-class Asian students are urged to attend college and major in computer science. However, Bobb believes the problem with the model for students of color is they are offered choices that can at times diminish their ambition.

“What Bobb describes evokes the practice of tracking and ability grouping in K-12 public schools, labeled a modern-day form of segregation for guiding white students into honors and college-prep courses, while black and Latino children are sorted into vocational and remedial classes,” according to the report.

“Similar issues seem to surface with the new trend toward career academies becoming popular in some school districts.”

A leveled playing field is more than giving all students the access they need to technology. All students have to feel challenged and encouraged to excel at the same height as their peers.

While pointing out these very fixable flaws, Bobb also shares what he believes to be an answer to ending the risk of “technical ghettos.”

“To avert the risk of what he calls ‘technical ghettos,’ all students must have access to an expansive computer- science education with a quality math program, he said,” according to the report.

“It’s a myth to think that students can simply learn to code and flourish without a minimum level of mathematical sophistication.”

In other words, there needs to be a rigorous program across the board for all students as well as supplemental programs outside of the classroom such as hack-a-thons.

Read the full story and let us know what you are doing to make sure that your STEM education program and technology access/demands are equitable in your district.

Article by Navindra Persaud, Education World Contributor

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