The prioritization of profit in Lynbrook STEM culture

Lillian Fu

Sitting in the heart of Silicon Valley, Lynbrook is an overwhelmingly STEM-based school with a student body that largely goes on to pursue careers in the tech industry. However, the current profitability of STEM makes interest in the subject less important than monetary gain. Calling Lynbrook a STEM environment is inaccurate as these STEM pursuits are often fueled mostly by economic motivations rather than interest and passion.

The Bay Area environment is one rooted in commercial technology that rose to prominence in the late 20th century. As the profitability of this industry continued to increase, the job market for it also rapidly expanded. Immigrants, mainly from Asia, flocked to the Bay Area in search of economic opportunities they may not have access to in their home countries. Careers in technology both ensured a high socioeconomic class and were easier to pursue than other prestigious fields like law or medicine.

“A lot of people treat STEM as a means to an end,” said junior Marissa Dai. “They don’t actually care about the topic or have any passion for it.”

For many immigrants, these jobs have offered them a chance to build wealth and ascend the social ladder in America quickly. Their children, born into this culture their parents built, are tasked with continuing their goals and are expected to pursue STEM and secure high-paying jobs in the same industry as their parents.

Lynbrook exemplifies Bay Area culture. Pressured from a young age by their parents and the community around them, many students find their academic lives geared toward getting into a prestigious college where they will study a STEM subject, all for the eventual goal of securing a financially stable job, which parents think is only possible in STEM. This results in a heavily STEM-based community that isn’t primarily supported by interest, but by monetary concerns. 

“It’s not that I don’t like [STEM],” said sophomore Akshara Taraniganty. “I like it and it’s a part of my identity, but it wouldn’t have been if it weren’t for Lynbrook and this community.”

Compared to other schools and communities that revolve around a field, like art magnet schools or even humanities-focused schools, Lynbrook is lacking in passion.  Although many students do find STEM interesting, many others don’t and still pursue it anyway, and both groups of people were at least initially motivated by economic gain.

The profitability of STEM, especially computer science which sees average salaries of $150,000 in the Bay Area, makes any community based around it connected to financial pursuit. But that is more true for the Bay Area than anywhere else because it lies at the heart of the tech industry. And for Lynbrook students, who are mainly children of people who were drawn to the fiscal benefits of tech careers, STEM is inseparable from money. 

“My dad has said a lot of times that he won’t pay for my college if [my major] is not in STEM,” Taraniganty said. “I think he doesn’t have bad intentions, he just thinks that’s the only way I’ll be able to make money in the future.”

A community where individuals focus on one set of subjects academically is not bad in and of itself. However, because of how firmly it leans to one side, interests in other areas receive less support. Parents often actively shun and discourage their children from going into any field besides STEM. Because of how collectively the environment is shifted toward STEM, pursuit in other subjects is naturally set to the side. Systemic bias in the district also hinders interest in other subjects: while Lynbrook has honors classes for chemistry and physics, they lack honors options for history and literature. 

But what is most harmful about the foundation of this community is that money enters the equation so early on, and remains a large factor of it from then on. Students should be taking this time to explore their own interests and to make tentative future resolutions based on what they discover.  Instead, they are pressured into a single goal that they often have little to no say in. To speak nothing of the competition that this breeds, the fact that interest and passion take a backseat to economic motivation so early on in students’ lives is detrimental both to individual students and to the community as a whole. 

“I really believe you can’t go wrong if you love what you do,” said computer science teacher Bradley Fulk. “It doesn’t really matter what it is, whether it’s computer science or not. I think [passion] is the most important thing and I think it’s so easy, in a school as competitive as Lynbrook, to lose sight of that one thing.”

Growing up in the heavily STEM influenced Silicon Valley, many students find their lives set on a predetermined path that will lead them into high-paying jobs in the tech industry. But the large number of these students pursuing STEM is not reflected in genuine passion for the field itself, making the Lynbrook community one fueled by the prospect of monetary gain. In order to foster a more supportive academic environment, parents should push their childrens’ interest in STEM rather than push them to make money. The Lynbrook community will inevitably remain STEM-oriented because of its location, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be healthy.