A new STEM-based school program is teaching kindergarteners how to use robots to make cars. Parents of students in four Minnesota school districts are joining a campaign to oppose the program.
Sara Shaker, with the Family Institute for Public Policy (FIPP), said she’s worried that children may be learning the wrong things about science, technology, engineering and math.
Shaker, a mom, said she’s been “buzzed” by the school program in her district in the northeast Minneapolis suburb of St. Louis Park and the neighboring Woodbury area. She’s also been approached by people saying their children have been “roboticized,” and in her opinion, they’re right.
The programs at both of those schools run as a partnership between the Woodbury Area School District and the nonprofit Families for Better Schools (FBS), and they use the popular Logo robot to teach students about engineering.
The Logo is a little black robot with a green face and can drive self-driving cars.
Shaker said she was alerted to the FBS robot project after she was invited to a small school board meeting where the topic of robotics and engineering was discussed.
“We didn’t have a problem in this district when children were encouraged to be inspired by robots because that is what they do in their home,” Shaker said. “We did have a problem when they’re not encouraged to use robots for the learning. What’s the point of having robots? We’d like to see kids using STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills in their everyday lives, not in a science fiction curriculum.”
At the meeting, district officials said the program should be reviewed by the state Department of Education, which would likely provide feedback on the program’s content.
But Shaker said she’s concerned the program will teach kids how to be “good robots” and use technology in the wrong way.
“I’m concerned that they’re being taught robots as a means of teaching students how to control a machine in their brain instead of a machine in their hands,” Shaker said. “And that is not what is being taught. It’s not ‘go here and control what should be controlled.’ And I think that would be the same for robotics that they’re being taught today. It’s ‘go here and control that robot,’ and they’re going to be robots as a result. And