The picture was brought to my attention in dramatic fashion by Roland Martin who delivered a powerful speech this past Wednesday at the 2013 BDPA National Conference in Washington D.C.
In powerful words, dramatic rendition and no small amount of humor he illuminated the challenge of STEM, clarified why it’s important, provided tough talk as to why we are not making sufficient progress on the subject, and what we really need to do to change our level of progress. He spoke about our responsibility as technology leaders, and why it was incumbent upon us to hold up the banner of STEM and drive the message home that it is and must be our future. He held BDPA accountable. And in this, he was right.
Look at the picture again. It’s an image of ROCK STARS! BALLERS! Movers and shakers that are doing things to move the world forward. Would you say these are people you admire, people you would like to emulate? People you might want your children to emulate? Look at the picture once more. Do you know all the people in the picture?
Several years ago I coined a phrase, MDC (Media-Driven ConsumerCelebreality). Google it and get a feel for the concept. Essentially it is a social trend in which the factors of production, distribution, and most importantly marketing, come together to facilitate successful economic growth at the expense (or to the benefit) of the consumer.
More information on the subject can be found here: http://bit.ly/1bEw3uh
Understand, MDC drives the culture, it determines what’s important. We as consumers are not used to taking control of what we consume, but the point is our consumption patterns drive what’s popular. We do have the power if we but realize it. This has a direct bearing on the Rock Star poster and what that poster can portend for the future.
Two of the people in the poster you may readily recognize. Many of you may recognize three. I’m willing to put $1000 on the line and bet that more than 99% of you don’t recognize the man on the left, and that is the crux of the matter.
That man is an American Astronaut, a rock star. He is Dr. Bernard Harris and as a benefit of his education and his personal investment in STEM for his own development, he has flown into space, led organizations, and made much money. Let me say that again, HE HAS MADE MUCH MONEY! He’s a BALLER.
Roland spoke to BDPA about how in truth we are the 1%. Yes, we really are. We are technology people. We earn salaries well above the national median income. We drive expensive cars, live in nice homes, take vacations, have the wealth and means to attend a national conference on the subject that has made our wealth possible not as a function of our job … but because we volunteered.
BDPA’s motto is from the classroom to the boardroom. This motto demands investment in STEM, and as I see it the need goes well beyond my organization. It is a national issue, one that we must consider as a crisis.
I am an avowed aspiring critical thinker and prime motivator for those I encounter. I believe it is my personal responsibility to be deeply invested in what STEM is and how it will benefit not only our socio-economic well-being but how it can and must transform the American Zeitgeist, the very nature of our culture.
Critical thinking demands that we examine the issue with due perspective and foundational questions. We must understand the who, what, when, where, why and how of the issue. If we do this and look closely at the obvious relationships and down-line dependencies the importance of STEM becomes abundantly clear and we see readily how it can and must transform our culture.
Who are the ROCK STARS? What is the Zietgeist? Why is bling and the blingification of STEM critical? Why must we in technology view ourselves as ballers? What will happen if we do this and how it is truly transformative?
WHAT IS THIS DAMN STEM THING???
First, the zeitgeist basically is the predominant cultural spirit of an age. I don’t think too many people would disagree with me if I said our MDC culture is driven by POP culture. We admire and seek to become part of the POP life. We admire ballers. We glorify money. Our youth seek to ascend to the level of television avatars. They seek to make millions playing with a ball made of cow skin. They want to be America’s idol. They desire to be the top model. They believe that if they look like it, act like it, and wear their pants with their ass cracks showing, they can BE it, somehow spitting white hot fire lyrics to the tune of million dollar contracts, videos and stripper poles in the basement of their eight bedroom mansions. This … is our culture, and it cannot, will not, carry us into tomorrow.
STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. The reason we must drive its importance is because knowledge in these areas is power to innovate and create new demand, which drives the economic cycle and generates prosperity. The more individuals we have investing in STEM the more prosperous we will all be, ALL OF US.
What is STEM? Or rather HOW must we pursue STEM? Through the lens of critical thinking the path becomes clear. This is how we bring it all together. MDC must be used not against the consumer but rather for the consumer. We must flood our eyes and our ears with more messages like the one presented above. Like Roland said, we must see ourselves for what we are and what we have done as people working in the field and we must evangelize. We must get our government, our corporations, our churches, our social clubs, our fraternities and sororities to all invest not in what’s nebulous, but what’s concrete.
We must turn our success stories into Rock Star stories. We must inject our message into that which the youth find most popular. We must show them that if money and celebrity is what they pursue then they can have that success pursuing science and math. Understand, along the way, the exercise of expanding their mental horizons will free them of the banality of POP culture, but first we must use POP culture to inoculate them against what they have internalized, the glorification of stupidity.
We can do this, each of us. We must tell our stories. We must volunteer. We must be active. We must be invested in this activity. Each one must teach one and in turn move the culture. Our zeitgeist can and must become the culture of innovation, admiring the astronauts, the bio-engineers, the architects, the astrophysicists, the programmers, the chemists. We must celebrate their successes; make their stories fundamental and foundational. It must become our mandate. It is mine, are you prepared to make it yours?
The Aspiring Critical Thinker,