The STEM Needs the Flower

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Oh, Ronald Reagan. In 1983 his administration presented A Nation at Risk, a report that would forever change the game in American education.

In short, it claimed we had everything to fear. We were falling behind. Our teachers weren’t good enough.

And so began our collective sprint to a finish line where all children succeed, where domination in math and science would be as natural as breathing. To achieve these goals, however, we had to shed the excess – the nonessential.

And, just like that, the STEM virus began.

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The Scientist

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“I think you should consider medical school.”

I was 26 at the time and only two months from finishing my second graduate degree. But, still, my advisor’s words were tempting. And, let’s be honest, coast has never been a word in my vocabulary.

In that moment, I saw two paths my life could take. In the first, I could work hard and sacrifice for a dream job in obstetrics and gynecology. Or I could make my way back into the classroom – likely to teach language arts (the field where my initial training occurred).

For many days, life begged the question: Science or the arts?

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The Education of a Vaccine Skeptic

Vaccines

As a child, I viewed shots as necessary evils. Other than the initial sting, I didn’t much mind being inoculated and trusted that whoever required it must have done so for a reason. Because I had never gotten seriously ill and, unlike so many that I knew, had managed to dodge the dangerous bullet of HPV in college (I attended before a vaccine was available), my beliefs in young adulthood evolved to view vaccines as more inconvenient than beneficial. I also had not yet seen the world and the devastation that preventable infectious diseases can cause. In a word, I was naïve.

So naïve, in fact, that I began my master’s degree in public health with the idea that I would somehow uncover the ugly truth behind vaccines. Isn’t there always something exciting about trying to prove “the system” wrong? Well, as it turns out, sometimes the more you know, the more you find that you are wrong.

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