Economy and STEM Education Policy: Towards a Bidirectional STEM Pipeline

  • Matthew James Shackley (University of California, Santa Barbara)


Whether implicit or explicit, the purpose of K-12 education in the American mind is for (1) economic advancement of the individual and (2) the maintenance of the capitalist economic structure through the provision of a qualified labor force. As the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are seen as central to future economic activity, much attention in science education research is presently paid to how to best retain students in a unidirectional pipeline model towards STEM careers. I challenge the purely economic impetus for diverse participation in STEM education as necessarily reproducing historical inequities. Rather, I reconceptualize a bidirectional STEM pipeline that seeks to democratize the tools of science for the continued work of social justice. In this model, science takes on the role of one of a number of equally valuable funds of knowledge that students can appropriate to answer questions and address issues in their own community contexts. I draw on the work of John Dewey and Lev Vygotsky in discussing the dialectical relationship between identity and culture, to explain how democratizing the tools of science in this way will allow marginalized groups to (re)construct the very culture of science.

Keywords: critical pedagogy, sociocultural theory, STEM education, science education, education policy, social justice, STEM pipeline, STEM

How to Cite:

Shackley, M. J., (2020) “Economy and STEM Education Policy: Towards a Bidirectional STEM Pipeline”, Journal of Critical Thought and Praxis 10(1), 1-14. doi:



Published on
04 Nov 2020
Peer Reviewed