At the high school level students should have more of a choice as to what to study. STEM is a productive venue for students who dislike spinach math. But if they engaged in well designed STEM projects that illuminate math ideas, spinach math would be something they actually would enjoy. Pass the butter, please.
Note 1: In Washington NCTM will be introducing a new book Catalyzing Change in High School Mathematics which offers 2 tracks for students. (see Dan Meyer’s blogpost about that.) Learning math is not a zero sum game as Matt Larson implies. He says that math education is the key to students becoming great critical problem solvers in all walks of life. That’s absurd. There are many successful paths to achieve critical thinking skills. Look at those articulate students who survived the school shooting in Parkland who are passionately engaged in pushing for gun control. How much did their math education contribute to this? The answer is unclear, but I doubt if it did much for those students who are currently surviving spinach math. (They see no purpose in studying Calculus in high school, other than it looks good on their college application.)
Note 2: No mere vegetable ever gained the fame that spinach did in the 1960s through the cartoon character Popeye. Often in vain, parents encouraged their children to eat their spinach so they would grow up to be big and strong. Why did Popeye eat so much spinach? The Surprising Answer.