Our current version of STEM was planted in our cultural psyche by John Kennedy. If he had not roused the nation with the feverous glory of reaching for the stars before the evil empire did, we could be lollygagging along with number 2 pencils behind our ears and steno notepads, rather than Bluetooth headsets and iPads. But because of his “Moon Speech” (62’), we were motivated, we reached for the stars, and we have defined ourselves in that story. It was the first time that our nation framed STEM workers as heroes. Up to that point they had been bit parts in our in our cultural narrative, or perhaps the geeky sidekicks.
Without us even realizing it, space and the science that would get us there became a national passion. What JFK did, was create a narrative, he outlined a worthy quest, defined the foe to be defeated, and glorified the heroes to be. That is what story does. It ignites passion, it defines who we are, what we want, and how we should achieve those goals.
Within 18 months of that well spun story Isaac Asimov goes from niche writer to cultural icon, Star Trek starts to define today’s tech and George Lucas goes from writing stories about cars to Space Epics.
Stories shape us, in sneaky even insidious ways. They play with our subconscious pinning down the abstract ideas that frame our world. Brave, strong, powerful, hero… those ideas are built on stories. Choosing your books carefully.