Go onto our website tomorrow (June 10th), and you will find nothing but a black screen with the hashtag “shutdownstem.” Click it, and you will be redirected to a reading list on racism and discrimination in STEM and education. We implore you – shut down STEM.
It shouldn't be news to you that education, particularly in science and technology, is ingrained with issues of race. This climate makes “business as usual” an act of racism. Perpetuating our traditional educational model, operating in our comfort zone, and just keeping the doors open creates a platform for a racist system to grow. Our fast-paced, results-driven world makes the task of reaching ‘educational equality’ rather Sisyphean. Dr. Eric Grollman, author of one of the articles in that list you’ll find tomorrow, discusses how inadequate the efforts of blindly diversifying student bodies are in higher education. “On top of the challenges of getting into, paying for, and navigating college, many students of color also enter a racially hostile environment, perhaps for the first time in their lives.” Also noting that “I’ve lost count of the number of students of color who have told me they are miserable at my institution, for some, even saying that this is the ‘worst chapter of their lives.’ It’s heartbreaking.” (Grollman, Invisible Labor) We are constantly working to improve diversity and maximize equality, but the act of pushing, of rashly and blindly acting against this system, is the very thing that makes it possible for the boulder to roll back down the hill. “In order to understand the world, one has to turn away from it on occasion." (Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus) Use tomorrow to stop and take a seat on your boulder. Read up on the racial problems in education, do some writing on your personal experiences with this issue, talk to your peers, teachers, and mentors, but do not engage in education.No grading, no testing, no research, no workshops: just thinking and reflecting.
Make no mistake: these issues are systemic, but we can’t just put them on our principals, superintendents, or secretaries of education. Being a part of this system makes us responsible. Each and every one of us has to make a change, and the scientific method tells us that this starts with understanding the problem. That said, just like every other experiment this isn’t one and done. Our findings tomorrow will inform the next day, then the next week, then the next month. The boulder will probably roll down the hill again, but this time we’ll learn from it. We can’t wait to hear what you thought about and came up with!