August 09, 2010

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Is There a “STEM Perception Gap” Among U.S. Youth?

Fact: The U.S. Ranks 35th in Math and 29th in Science Worldwide*

According to a study conducted by the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), teens in the United States are outperformed by most of their peers abroad in math and science.

Today we launched CAMM Worldwide, a new campaign that looks at this statistic and says “Huh? How can we be so far behind? And more importantly, how can we turn it around?!”

To help answer this question we traveled to three countries that rank significantly higher than the U.S. in math and science literacy – Finland, China and Australia – and interviewed real kids, parents and teachers about their attitudes towards science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and related issues. We compared responses from these nations to those from interviews conducted here in the U.S. Here’s a sampling of what we heard:

  • Unlike their peers abroad, U.S. students don’t seem to equate doing well in math and science with a successful future.
  • While kids outside the U.S. perceive their intelligent classmates as cool, American teens are more apt to think of these same kids as geeks.

According to the National Science Foundation, nearly eighty percent of jobs created in the next decade will require math and science. If our kids don’t get serious about these subjects now, there’s a good chance they won’t have the skills to pay the bills tomorrow.

How can you help close the STEM Perception Gap among our nation’s youth?

  • Learn More: Visit CAMM Worldwide for more information on the campaign and to watch more of our interviews with kids from around the world
  • Carry on the Conversation: Post your reactions on our Discuss page
  • Get Solutions: Find resources that will inspire your kids to take an interest in math and science now

Click here to read the CAMM Worldwide press release distributed today.


  1. Dave's reply

    When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. It’s comforting to think of the problem in personal, emotional terms. These foreigners simply have attitudes and virtues that we don’t; if we only got to know them better, we could be like they are. Right?

    The problem, sadly, doesn’t care if you’re sincere or penitent or virtuous. The problem is systemic. Right now, wherever you are, the school district in the town where you live is incapable of writing a math or history or science curriculum. Teachers, department heads, district administrators; none of these people are capable of writing a lesson plan for a student in any subject.

    Curricula are a commodity. Schools in the US have a commodity relationship with the companies that sell teaching materials. Teachers and students are only in the schools to serve that relationship. If a teacher were to show any initiative in rearranging the materials that they are supposed to serve (literally, to be critical of the material), then that teacher is whipped into shape or removed. Imagine the war that would break out if a teacher said, “calculus is useful, but really, only physicists use it. What’s really important is number theory” or “we’re going to take the rest of this week learning about journalism and critical reasoning, and then we’re taking a look at the Gulf of Tonkin resolution.”

    Our students don’t perform because we, as a nation, only know how to buy and sell. We don’t really know what we’re doing when it comes to learning, which is why we’ve reduced our schools to a crass commodity relationship. All the marketing campaigns in the world (like this one) aren’t going to change that.

  2. Jeff Simmermon's reply

    Dave, thanks for commenting. Obviously you feel strongly about this. And you’re right. But now that you’re right, what happens now? We’re trying to draw attention and dollars to a huge problem and do what we can to help. Are we doing the wrong thing? I’d rather go to hell for my actions than my inaction, personally. If this is the wrong approach, what’s the right one? And what are you doing to help?

  3. Dave's reply

    We must replace a citizenry that’s capable of educating its own children with unpaid volunteerism. Nothing else will do. Can you imagine what would happen if people expected their local or state community to pay capable professionals to teach children? Communism! That’s what would happen! Anarchy would ensue!

    We’ll tell them that we don’t hate their benighted efforts. Did you ever see a PTA in a predominantly black school district? HAHAHAHAHA! Oh, those worthless idiots. And it’s not like being upper middle class white helps… those poor saps actually expect to make decisions about educating children. Can you imagine those retards trying to write a curriculum around the Gulf of Tonkin resolution? Jesus, what a comedy. American parents and educators are talentless children that get what they deserve. They had no business trying to usurp the place of the free market.

    The cold, hard reality is that education is a commodity. Students are fungible. Educational materials are fungible. Markets sort students out. The ones that don’t survive the educational process are generally sorted out by the criminal justice system. Ultimately, the iron law of bell curves washes away those of us that don’t believe.

    Whatever we do, we must help the rest of us that aren’t as strong in our convictions that unpaid volunteerism won’t fix everything. Marketing is the key.

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