In the last post, I analysed how natural rules of the society make STEM careers not attractive to young people. Free market doesn’t restrict the work of natural economic rules, which sets price of each career only according to its popularity among the public. Government should compose laws to increase the salary of STEM careers mandatorily. And in this article, I will say something about the mainstream media and we will say how these media make STEM less attractive and even vilified.
Since 1980s, the media market in many countries has been gradually opened to private investors; and even state-owned media are attempting to make themselves commercialised and profitable. And now we see the harm of this trend. When the media and communication industry are over commercialised, they instinctively broadcast the programmes with less brain using to the public; because corny content are more popular among people, especially young people and can so that the company can make more profit; the classic and elegant content are reducing in most of public media because laziness is human’s nature and not many people want to use their brain to think of the programme’s plots. When the figures or the content of the programme has more popularity, the the more TV station can earn. As I talked about in the last post, if the business and government are always compromising on public popularity, there will be less motivation for them to improve the society and push it forward. And just because the media industry is over commercialised, the media companies compromise on public popularity, and one of the result is they tend to reduce the content related to STEM and people working in these fields.
During the process of the commercialisations of media industry, there is a trend we can see that more and more children and teenage entertainment stars have come into public view, such as Justin Bieber and so on (Sorry Mr. Bieber we talk about you again here). These figures are always attractive to the public. At the same time, the programmes related to entertainment have been increasing in nearly all mainstream TV channels maybe except KCTV of North Korea. One results of this trend is that more and more children and teenagers want to join entertainment industry.
This is an issue in China as far as I know. I spent primary school and middle school age in Chinese mainland in the first fourteen years of 21st century. I remember that when I was in primary school, most of my classmates’ dreams were to become scientists, engineers, workers, entrepreneurs and government officials. However, a decade later, a survey done among Chinese school kids recently indicated that most of them want to be music or movie stars! The Chinese society are totally shocked by this result and blaming the role of media in this issue; because there are too much entertainment content on Chinese media and almost all news indicates that one can become rich easily by becoming an entertainment overnight! As for engineers and scientists, many Chinese students told the surveyors that these careers require too much study finally earn extremely little.
It is not an individual case in China, but a common phenomenon in most of the countries in the world I reckon. Because the commercialised media like making young stars for their business interest, they are changing the sense of worth among young people. Every child and teenager wants to be famous and this is a normal psychological condition in that age. And the content of entertainment media are actually telling them the “best” way to achieve this goal: have a nice look, and learn how to show off, then you will become next star! And when they are convinced that becoming a singer or actor is the most effective method to get famous and rich under 25 years old, do you think they still want to jump into the deep pit of STEM? Compared with entertainment career path, STEM careers are really tough and rough: you have to work in a huge company or institute for many years and achieve some academic or technological stuff which are unknown to the public; most of scientists and engineers who have 30 years of experience and professor position are far poorer than a music star who has started singing only 5 years ago (only few Silicon Valley lucky guys can do this). Since the scene is like this, why do the kids in their teenage want to do STEM in their college or university age? Moreover, students loving STEM seem to be stupid because they just choose a long tough way to go.
The more disturbing case is that many media companies are vilifying the impression of scientists and engineers in their media products on the purpose to increase popularity. The most familiar one to me is Big Bang Theory. If I’m not mistaken or watching it with prejudice, the whole series are just fabricated with the stories showing how stupid the scientists are in real life. Their ability of dealing with daily life or talking with normal people is almost zero in the series. After watching the media programmes like this, do you think the middle school students still want to study STEM in college or going to take STEM as their career path? I doubt. My personal feeling is: if I had watched it years before, I would not have chosen engineering as my undergraduate course or learn astrophysics by myself.
I firmly cling to a view that media should spread the principle of how to improve our society, instead of merely compromising on public popularity. I have said that popularity among people might be a success of business but failure of society progress. If we want media give their voice helping pushing our society running forward, we must think of methods to force them broadcast the programmes which are not so popular, or to say tougher, force the public to love something. So the government should prevent mainstream media from over commercialisation. In other words, government is supposed to get the power to regulate the content of media and take it as a portion of government behaviour, instead of purely commercial behaviour.