Sunday, June 30, 2013

By the way, is dentistry a STEM field?

How does the Senate immigration bill (that has passed the Senate) define "STEM"? (oh, how I hate that term.) Here's the section that I found (page 661):
INCREASE IN ALLOCATION FOR STEM NON-IMMIGRANTS.—Section 214(g)(5)(C) (8 U.S.C. 1184(g)(5)(C)) is amended to read as follows:  
‘‘(C) has earned a master’s or higher, in a field  of science, technology, engineering, or math included in the Department of Education’s Classification of Instructional Programs taxonomy within the summary groups of computer and information sciences and support services, engineering, mathematics and statistics, and physical sciences, from a United States institution of higher education (as defined in section 101(a) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1001(a)) until the number of aliens who are exempted from such numerical limitation during 4 such year exceed 25,000.’’
In reading the Issa*/House Judiciary committee (?) version of the STEM green card bill, a slightly different version in a definitions section (page 6):
The term ‘field of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics’ means a field included in the Department of Education’s Classification of Instructional Programs taxonomy within the summary groups of computer and information sciences and support services, engineering, biological and biomedical sciences, mathematics and statistics, physical sciences, and the series geography and cartography (series 45.07), advanced/graduate dentistry and oral sciences (series 51.05) and nursing (series 51.16).
Is dentistry a STEM field? Nursing? Yes, they require a deep understanding of Science and Mathematics, but it is not what I consider Science, or Technology, or Engineering or Mathematics. Health care is its own field, with its own terminology (and its own immigration issues, I might note). It's all very exasperating to me.

This is why this term is so appallingly stupid -- for some reason, it means A Good Thing, and so all sorts of things get shoehorned into STEM.

[Hey, what happened to the biomedical sciences section in the Senate version? I gotta understand this stuff better.]

*Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), member of the House Judiciary Committee


  1. From an educational standpoint, certain health care professions (dentists, physicians, and veterinarians) have inexorable ties to STEM fields. The number of people studying biology, and thus the number of people getting bio degrees, is primarily the result of people entering college to become doctors. Some can't cut the pre-professional curriculum, others could but find they prefer the science route over the medical. The effect is also seen, although much less so, in chemistry. So for me it's difficult to totally separate the MD-level and equivalent (DDM, DDS, DVM, etc) doctors from STEM from an educational standpoint.

    One of the good reasons to support STEM education is to help produce doctors (and dentists and podiatrists and such), and our needs in this area are high. However, it's nigh impossible to reduce the number of biology and chemistry majors coming out of colleges without reducing our supply of worthy pre-med students. But this produces more science students needing jobs. This is an important problem for us educators to face, but I'm not sure what we can do (it doesn't help that my academic chem job exists primarily because of pre-med students).

    So to answer your titular question, while dentistry may not be a STEM field, the process of educating dentists definitely contributes to the need for STEM jobs. I won't say anything about the "oral sciences".

    Nursing? I will agree that the STEM aspects of nursing is minimal, even from an educational standpoint. I don't see a lot of potential nurses end up with science degrees. In the section of the bill you quote I'm more perplexed by the idea that geography and cartography are considered STEM fields. These, particularly geography, sound much more like social sciences (unless those are included in STEM sciences, in which case I don't know what to think anymore).

  2. To me "stem" is the part of the plant to which the flowers and leaves are attached.

  3. I have another pressing concern - our old friend is in graduate program for apparel design, and we would not at all mind if that qualified as a STEM field.