- Press Release
- August 9, 2022
Fixing Education And Outreach At NASA’s STEM Engagement Office
In a nutshell NASA’s education and outreach activities are overlooked, underemphasized, and underfunded; scattered and unfocused; and are simultaneously duplicative and non-complimentary. This is nothing new. It has been this way for decades.
The NASA STEM Engagement Office used to be called the NASA Education Office but NASA changed it to satisfy the demands of the Trump Administration who tried to defund it year after year – but Congress always put the money back. The Trump folks are gone but the name remains. “STEM” is almost always used with the word “education”. To say “STEM Engagement” is like referring to ice cream as a “frozen dairy product with flavoring” when everyone else just says “ice cream” but we all know that NASAese is a hard habit to break.
No one managing the NASA STEM Engagement Office is a formally trained education professional – starting with the Associate Administrator. This is no big deal if the office functions in backwater mode – where no one really cares what they do. But we are talking about the preeminent space agency on our planet. This Administration seems to be inclined to bring science and knowledge back into the way we run our society. Think of how often the equivalent if college education gets wasted every time a NASA contract has a daily cost hiccup. You would think that the agency is thinking of a total overhaul of its education and outreach – with a budget that can make that happen.
That said, if President Biden can put an actual teacher in charge of the Department of EDUCATION then NASA can change the name to reflect what the office does. With a person holding PhD in EDUCATION who is also First Lady one would think that this topic gets discussed at the dinner table in the White House. You’d think that NASA would sense an inherent green light to go a head and fix this situation and staff the organization with education professionals and give it a budget commensurate with its important role.
That said, NASA does do a lot of good education stuff. The hard part is figuring out what they do and why they do it – and how they tell if they are doing the right thing.