19 November 2012

News from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP)

STEMing the Tide

I would be preaching to this particular choir to talk about the value and importance of having an education system, workforce and electorate literate in the disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, known in their “group hug” as STEM.  We all understand the value, and live for that day—though we’d better eat our vegetables and always look both ways before crossing the street if we want to experience that day, which on many days seems very far away indeed.

But that is rather my point:  if that day seems far away (as it does on days when new world rankings come out showing our students in less than gold, silver or bronze positions in STEM skills, or when a former congressman from Missouri who sat on the House Science Committee spout outrageous fictions about biological functions in the heat of a political campaign), then it is important for us all to do what we can to bring that day of widespread STEM literacy a little closer.

At the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, we are weighing in on this question (one that we frequently do) by choosing “Ensuring STEM Literacy” as the overarching theme for our 2013 national conference on education and public outreach (EPO). The conference will be held on the lovely campus of San Jose State University in San Jose, California, 20-24 July of next year.  In addition to the EPO symposium, the meeting will also include the every-three-year “Cosmos in the Classroom” symposium, bringing together college introductory astronomy instructors from around the country (and beyond) to commune with each other and engage in professional development activities.  And the conference theme is entirely appropriate for both symposia, gathering formal and informal educators, communicators, scientists, and others to share their experiences and learn from each other in the quest to create a future where science is widely understood, valued, and considered in debating and deciding the great questions of our time. Not to mention ensuring that we have a workforce that can implement science and STEM-related endeavors.

So save the date, and come join us in San Jose next summer, for either symposium or both as we consider what we are doing, what we can do besides, and what we can do together to help ensure greater STEM literacy for the future.  The future rather depends on it!

You can go to the web link astrosociety.org/2013meeting on the ASP’s newly designed and updated web site (www.astrosociety.org).  And roam around our new online digs while you are at it, to refresh your knowledge about who we are and what we do, and to check out all the useful resources and services you can find there.

See you in San Jose?