South High School debater Shehnaz Nurien reads her debate case.

South High School novice debater Shehnaz thinks more teachers of color would make a difference in her education.

Could increasing STEM education funding create economic growth, end racism, and solve the global warming crisis?

Although Minnesota ranks among the top 10 states in overall science education, it has large gaps in science proficiency. Students of color are less likely to be proficient in math and science in 8th grade and 4th grade. This disparity is reflected in later education and careers: Minnesota is ranked 47th out of 50 states for rates of people of color in engineering programs. Minnesota reflects national trends, with few students of color receiving STEM opportunities and teachers of color even more underrepresented in STEM.

Minnesota debate coaches are creating conversation about this issue by including it in the novice debate packet. The packet includes three cases advocating for the US federal government to increase funding or regulation for education. In one case, novice students will advocate for this policy:

The United States Federal Government should amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to substantially increase funding and regulation for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics programs in elementary and secondary schools, including initiatives to hire more teachers of color and non-male teachers.

At the Humboldt Invitational, South High School debaters Marianna and Shehnaz expressed the need for such a policy. 

Our school is so diverse, but our teachers are majority white,” says Shehnaz.

And majority male,” Marianna adds. “I only have one female teacher. I notice that every day. It should reflect the population.”

The packet contains arguments and evidence promoting teachers of color in STEM. Debaters will discuss the benefits of adopting this policy: increased economic growth, reducing racism, and providing a solution to the global warming crisis. Students will explain why these benefits are necessary to the nation, how this policy is essential to creating these outcomes in society, and how specifically the policy would accomplish them. Read more about the vital questions the topic raises for education!

Can more teachers of color and women in STEM create economic growth?

Evidence shows that teachers of color improve students’ educational outcomes. Teachers of color improve academic achievement for students of color and STEM programs taught by teachers of color improve student learning. Improving educational outcomes could cause long term economic growth, which would benefit society as a whole. Students must also then address questions like: is economic growth the most important priority? What are the negative effects of economic growth?

Can more teachers of color and women in STEM reduce racism?

The opportunities presented to students of color, particularly black males, pigeonhole them to definitions of “success” involving either sports or entertainment. Teachers of color in STEM successfully model life paths outside of stereotypes for students. Students will debate the philosophical implications of reducing racism, discussing the history of oppression and racism’s relationship to other forms of discrimination. Debaters must then also address questions like: What about the role models we already have? Will teachers of color become tokenized?

Can increasing STEM funding solve the global warming crisis?

Increasing STEM funding, particularly for teachers of color, could help solve the global warming crisis by increasing scientific literacy. Lack of qualified teachers, facilities, and technology are major barriers to science education. Closing the funding gap helps schools achieve scientific literacy. Science literate students are science literate citizens. Science literate citizens are able to spot misinformation, understand the causes of global warming, and are more engaged in the political system. Students will have to grapple with the big picture: ending global warming impacts not just schools or American society, but the entire world!


If you’re interested in learning more about the issues raised by this topic, check out these local organizations advocating for inclusive STEM education:

Coalition to Increase Teachers of Color and American Indian Teachers in Minnesota

National Girls Collaborative Project