Giving Compass' Take:

• Daniel Block describes the importance of social justice in STEM fields in order to draw more interest from Black students.

• Most STEM careers don't focus on social justice. What can we do to change this? Why is diversifying STEM fields so essential in creating solutions that address racial inequities around the world?

• Learn about how one program is informing teachers on the importance of social justice in STEM.

STEM majors earn more than most other majors, and the dearth of Black students in these disciplines is part of why Black college graduates on the whole make so much less than their white counterparts. (Though it’s certainly not the only reason; Black STEM graduates earn less than white ones in the same industries.) It has led many academics to explore why so few Black students study technical subjects. The answer is complex, with structural causes that can date back to elementary school. But according to interviews with multiple Black academics, it’s about far more than just K–12 education. Black students’ disproportionate interest in social justice and the absence of Black STEM majors are causally related. In their courses and jobs, most STEM faculty and employers do not make social change a focus.

That’s unfortunate for many reasons, not the least of which is that some of the greatest injustices in American society need technical solutions. Building offices and apartments that are greener will require clever engineering. To make online education more effective, especially for communities that lack reliable internet access, the U.S. will need socially minded computer scientists.

But distressing as it may be, the current tendency for STEM academics to ignore social justice presents a major opportunity. If Black STEM students are disproportionately interested in using their degrees to make the world more equitable and fair, then STEM departments can attract and retain more Black students by making these themes central to their curriculums. Doing so will have two sets of benefits: It will help Black people enter well-paying professions, and it will help create a corps of scientists and engineers focused on making a more just planet.

Read the full article about social justice in STEM by Daniel Block at Washington Monthly.