In the Oval Office, joined by about 50 students, President Donald Trump signed a memo on September 25 that seeks to expand access to high-quality science, technology, engineering, math (STEM), and computer science education to K-12 students.
US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, Ivanka Trump, and several congressional representatives were also in attendance at a signing ceremony for the memo, which directs the federal government to invest $200 million to boost science instruction.
“Greater access to STEM (and) computer-science programs will ensure that our children will develop the skills they need to compete and to win in the workforce,” the Washington Post quoted the president as saying. “We will help give our American children a pathway to success in the workforce of tomorrow.”
The White House has said one of Mr Trump’s primary goals is to give Americans the opportunity to obtain the necessary education and tools that lead to good, stable jobs. The president and his administration have often stressed how determined they are to provide Americans, particularly young Americans, the skills they need to be competitive in the job market.
The White House blog, citing the memo, noted that “less than half of schools offer computer programming, and nearly 40 percent of high schools did not offer physics in 2015. Additionally, STEM and computer science education among women, minorities, and students in rural communities are limited; according to College Board, less than a quarter of those who took the Advance Placement Computer Science A exam were women.”
Although the memorandum doesn’t identify any specific source for the funds, it directs the education department to place high quality STEM education, particularly computer science, at the forefront of the Department of Education’s priorities, and in doing so, establish a goal of devoting at least $200 million per year in grant funds towards this priority.
In his closing remarks, the president reminded the students to always do and study what they love, saying, “Follow your hearts, and you’re going to be tremendously successful people.”
Although I am willing to consider each idea on its own merit, it is very difficult to separate the president’s prior show of disrespect for women and minorities while, here, claiming to want to encourage them in some way.
Mr Trump is the president, so in one sense, we have little choice but to report this important initiative that is bound to provide funds for programs that will encourage girls and minority students to pursue studies in the STEM disciplines and in computer science. However, other actions of this president and this administration defeat the efforts reported here in that he has proven himself a racist, anti-immigrant leader.
So while I’m willing to wait and see where Ms DeVos finds this money, what it’s taken away from, and where it might be spent, I am not hopeful that it will in any way erase the bigotry and disrespect shown to women and minorities by this president.