The knowledge of Nature acquired through STEM education and training can definitely improve employment opportunities. However, the real value of STEM is its ability to empower and provide self-determination. This empowerment is a key building block of freedom – it wasn’t just a March On Washington or a March On Washington for Jobs, but a March On Washington for Jobs and Freedom. While jobs are important, without freedom they can end up as slavery renegotiated on better terms. As Martin Luther King noted in Where Do We Go From Here:
New forms of work that enhance the social good will have to be devised for those for whom traditional jobs are not available. In 1879 Henry George anticipated this state of affairs when he wrote in Progress and Poverty:
The fact is that the work which improves the condition of mankind, the work which extends knowledge and increases power and enriches literature and elevates thought, is not done to secure a living. It is not the work of slaves driven to their tasks either by the, that of a taskmaster or by animal necessities. It is the work of men who somehow find a form of work that brings a security for its own sake and a state of society where want is abolished.
Work of this sort could be enormously increased, and we are likely to find that the problem of housing, education, instead of preceding the elimination of poverty, will themselves be affected if poverty is first abolished. The poor, transformed into purchasers, will do a great deal on their own to alter housing decay. Negroes, who have a double disability, will have a greater effect on discrimination when they have the additional weapon of cash to use in their struggle.
Beyond these advantages, a host of positive psychological changes inevitably will result from widespread economic security. The dignity of the individual will flourish when the decisions concerning his life are in his own hands, when he has the assurance that his income is stable and certain, and when he knows that he has the means to seek self-improvement. Personal conflicts between husband, wife, and children will diminish when the unjust measurement of human worth on a scale of dollars is eliminated.
A similar, more STEM focused view was put forth in the 1930’s by George Schuyler founder along with Ella Baker, of the Young Negroes Co-operative League of America(YNCL) which was
a federation of local groups founded by black journalist and anarchist George Schuyler, that sponsored the growth and development of local consumer cooperatives and buying clubs in major cities throughout the country.
Though apparently unable to find enough STEM literate people for YNCL, Schuyler created a fictional organization called the Black Internationale in a series of essays published in the Pittsburgh Courier in 1936. This work has been collected in the book Black Empire. In it the lead character says:
… our civilization is bogged down without electricians, engineers, chemists, metallurgists and their like. … It is desirable that our future Negro leadership consists of scientists … we can build … an empire of black men and women working toward a cooperative civilization unexcelled in this world.
To obtain Kujichagulia we ultimately have to be able to create jobs.