STEM: Silver Bullet for a Viable Future or Just More Flatland?


This article explores contentious issues that arise from unproblematised calls for STEM (the disciplines of Science, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology) to provide innovative solutions to two existential problems of the 21st century: employment and environmental sustainability. We situate STEM as a neoliberal construct within a hypermodernist techno-optimist future, a manifestation of Wilber’s “flatland”. We argue that while STEM undoubtedly plays an important role into the future, rather than being taken at face value as an unexamined good, its taken-forgranted but contradictory role is naïve and misplaced and must be subject to serious critique. We argue that in its current conceptualisation, STEM’s role is inherently unable to provide the sustainability of future employment in a knowledge-based economy. We question the enthusiastic promotion of STEM as key contributor to an environmentally sustainable future as we enter the epoch of the Anthropocene, and examine the role of STEM education, in contrast to Education for Sustainability (EfS). We conclude that STEM and STEM education need to include critical and futures perspectives in order to align more fully with a flourishing economic, social and environmental future.

Keywords: STEM, Futures, Sustainability, Education.

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