Someone around here has a four-hour STEM erection

The public service announcements are getting crazier and crazier. The NBC affiliate in Albany, WNYT, has an entire page on its website dedicated to this science fair shit. I recall hearing excessive carrying-on about STEM on WRGB, the Albany CBS affiliate, as well, although I can’t say for sure.

In any event, WNYT is more obnoxious about it. Lately it’s taken to having its on-air personalities make daft statements like, “Personally, one of my favorite things about STEM is how it relates to meteorology,” and “STEM is even involved in this wind turbine.” If I heard anything that stupid from Steve LaPointe, I’d be floored and would #NeverForget it. Maybe management at WNYT has an easier time compelling its on-air talent to beclown itself. Maybe it just selects for the naturally self-beclowning, in which case it somehow managed not to land Liz Bishop, who is a self-important ass. In any event, management at WNYT has a raging hardon for science. I don’t mean for actual science, in which case they’d be doing or at least reading about some actual, specific science, not making utter fools of themselves on local television by publicly having a group crush on science as that cool stuff that Mr. Garrison teaches in fifth period science class. #TeshTips: If you call it “science class,” you’re learning shit for science, kid. Why must I scisplain this? Because we’re a nation of witless ass-clowns, of course. By design we are such a people.

You need to know stuff about science in order to practice meteorology, which is the scientific study of weather. No shit, Sherlock. You also need science to build a big-ass wind turbine that won’t, like, blow over or lose blades and kill people and that kind of thing. Yes, Mr. Wonka will be amazed by this insight, too. These comments are to meteorology and civil engineering what Spanish lessons with Dora the Explorer are to Don Quixote. Any children or teens in the audience with a genuine interest in science or math must be watching these PSA’s and thinking, what the fuck, man. Nonsense like that is the last thing that will get students to apply themselves to the point of being halfway viable in college- or graduate-level science courses. Science and math education in US public schools, like all their other coursework, has to be of spotty and generally poor quality, just because most of our public schools truly suck.

There’s a category error hidden in plain sight in these PSA’s. They falsely imply that paying attention in “science class” and maybe doing (or having mom and dad do) some extracurricular science fair projects (hey there, Ahmed) is the way to get hired as a TV weather presenter or an engineer working on wind turbines. Of course it isn’t. The relevant decisions to accept or reject applicants are made at higher, less ridiculous (well, sometimes less ridiculous) levels than that. RPI doesn’t choose its matriculating classes from the first page or two of a Capital District phone book, the way soi-disant humanist William F. Buckley fatuously suggested choosing the US government. How does one get work engineering wind turbines? I can only guess, but I do know that the most prestigious engineering jobs, especially auto and aerospace, tend to be extremely sought-after and hard to secure. Repairing wind turbines requires high levels of mechanical aptitude, physical fitness, and willingness to plunge or be crushed to death if something goes wrong. Presenting the weather on air involves a hell of a lot more than just studying meteorology; for Dagmar Midcap, it involves everything but qualification as a meteorologist. Are you a preternaturally hot Canadian chick with a malleable but neutral accent and an inexplicable ability to keep up the game face through all the crazy? No, you aren’t. You might be hot enough to work at Dutch Bros., though, especially if you are in fact a bro descended from Dutchmen.

The craven assumption supporting this category error is that it is crucial for young people to get a vocational or cryptovocational education because hell will freeze over before we pay people a living wage to pick crops or sling hash. We’re too chickenshit to force anyone to provide decently for the menial laborers who keep our society from grinding to a halt and then starving. Telling the kids to stay in school and keep their noses to the grindstone is just another cheap trick to kick the can another few yards down the road. The truths are too ugly and humbling to face: that we kick the poor when they’re down because we’re a society of asshats; that the hard skills needed for entry-level jobs in the sciences can be taught in a semester, while the soft skills can’t be taught at all, and ought not be taught even if their instruction is feasible, because they’re morally corrosive; that we have absolutely no fucking idea of how to equitably distribute our substantial surplus wealth or marginalize the self-important looters who pop out of the woodwork to insist on keeping it all for themselves every time the subject of inequality is raised.

I worked in environmental consulting for several months after I graduated from college. It was nominally my professional field. The relevant hard skills I learned for the job in college would have fit easily into a two-course semester; there’s no way to teach the soft political skills involved in that job to anyone who isn’t naturally immoral or amoral. That’s how degraded and dysfunctional our corporate environment was. My employer was apparently one of the more functional and morally grounded ones in the industry, by the way.  The things Michael O. Church writes about the tech industry make my old consulting firm look like Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. 

There are countless opportunities to get preyed upon and shafted at insecure jobs that provide no discernible net benefit to society. Getting in on the current hot job market offers no protection. I learned this the hard way. No bullshit advertising campaign on local television will change that. Management consulting as it is currently operated will only make things worse, as it is run by cutthroat social climbers who know little and care not at all about the core operations and purposes of the companies they upend. The only way this vicious, poisonous environment will be reformed is if individuals stop believing in thievery, extortion, and fraud. Our only hope is for individuals and families, and eventually larger organizations, to start loving some virtue or virtues more sincerely than they love these destructive vices. I’ll be damned if such a change of heart will be inspired by anyone currently on mainstream television.

These STEM PSA’s are beaming indiscriminately into the houses of low-class youngsters who will end up on SSI and Section Eight vouchers just like their parents. These people are more respectable than the striving target audience for these ads and the hypercompetitive people orchestrating the ads, and more enviable, too. They have fewer illusions to lose as they mature. They’re also a more honest class of gimmedats than their betters. The shitheads who come up with vocational training propaganda also work for Gobias Industries. That’s why Dagmar Midcap only joked about maybe picking grapefruit, while I’ve commercially picked blueberries, wine grapes, and olives. It isn’t like there will suddenly not be any engineers or nurses because I do seasonal stoop labor instead of “using my education” or some shit. If you want me to really waste my intellect, put me on a hospital floor under some overcredentialed idiot of a master’s-level charge nurse who shouldn’t have so much as an LPN certificate or supervisory authority over the night shift at Stewart’s. There are quite a few of these in modern American medicine. There are some suck-ass MD’s with high self-esteem, too.

Science: I’ll fucking love it when Samuel L. Jackson gets these motherfucking snakes out of my motherfucking industries.


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