Interesting piece from Elizabeth Garbee, which explores the flaws of the pipeline metaphor often cited in discussions on STEM education, up on Slate.
Thankfully, some organizations have recently started to revise their thinking on this well-worn model. The NSF, for example, has started using pathways in place of pipeline to refer to the potential routes that bring individuals to a STEM Ph.D. or future STEM career. At least this P-word is plural, unlike the rigid pipeline. But it still suggests that there are a set number of educational paths to “be successful”—ones that value traditional specialized academic training over the kind of interdisciplinary expertise that we increasingly need in the modern global economy.
For me, this issue is personal. I’m a woman with an undergraduate degree in astrophysics. But because I chose to pursue a career in science policy instead of getting an astrophysics Ph.D., I didn’t “make it.” I’m a leak in the pipeline, even though I’m on my last year of a science policy Ph.D. program with the goal of a career in public service. I’m just one of countless people who use their science training in careers that the pipeline model doesn’t value.
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