There’s a party going on — one to which my invitation appears to have been returned to the sender more than 30 years ago.
Today is March 14, 2015 — 3-14-15. It’s otherwise known around the world as Pi Day to those invited to today’s science, technology, engineering and math party. But I’m on the outside looking in when it comes to STEM as it is known by the former nerds and math geeks who grew up to be the cool kids on the red carpet for today’s party.
For anyone who doesn’t know or remember, Pi (Greek letter “π”) is the symbol used in mathematics to represent a constant — the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter — which is approximately 3.141592653.
To this day, the preceding paragraph represents a word salad to me. And at 3-14-15 9:26:53 a.m., I won’t be thinking about mathematical equations because STEM and I have never been close. By 3-14-15 9:26:53 p.m., I’ll be asleep, which, ironically, is how I spent a significant chunk of the 10th grade.
It’s human nature to say I’m not responsible for my rift with STEM. It would be easier to blame someone else. I’m not writing this to do that even though it’s exactly what I’ve done for years, selecting as my scapegoat the high school geometry teacher who tried to teach the 16-year-old me.
Even though I have identified him, I won’t name him here. For all I know he may no longer be living. He has children and grandchildren. He likely was also a better teacher than I remember. He couldn’t have been as bad as I thought he was.
But it’s too bad he wasn’t more like Sarah Hagan, the 25-year-old high school math teacher from Oklahoma who was profiled this past week on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered.
I would have benefited from her passion and enthusiasm because I wasn’t yet disciplined enough to really buckle down and work to learn something that didn’t come easily for me. Instead, once I finally got out of that class with a passing grade, I went out of my way to study math as seldom as possible.
This was at the dawn of the personal computing age — not a good time, as it turned out, to turn your back on science, technology, engineering and math. As a result, I’ve spent the years since then learning how to write and do many other things. And I don’t mean to dismiss those skills. They are very important, too. But the world today is an even worse place for a young person to ignore STEM.
In the community where I live, I have friends who teach match and science. I think they veer more to the Sarah Hagan end of the teaching spectrum. At least I hope so, because they are doing important work. And they must find a way to reach the undisciplined 16 year olds sitting in their classes. If they don’t, some of those teenagers 30 years from now will regret that they are sitting out the national celebration on Pi Day.