The country’s first CTO, Aneesh Chopra, mentioned the President’s science and math initiative on his blog which includes a video of the president’s speech this week and showcases FIRST, the best STEM initiative in the US.
At the 12 minute mark, President Obama recalls asking South Korea’s president what his biggest education challenge was. He replied, “our parents are too demanding.” With the exception of some private schools, it’s hard to imagine that problem in the US. We have an anti-STEM culture and it threatens the economic security of the US.
The good news is that the President announced a STEM initiative. The bad news is that it’s not very good. Dave Saba summarized how badly flawed in this blog yesterday; it’s a university give away.
In addition to devaluing science, we’ve made it boring. There is a generation of learning tools and virtual environments that will help address that problem. And rather than expanding multiple choice testing about science, we need to get more kids doing science in programs like FIRST. Every student in grades 6-12 should be involved in a science-related project and demonstration every year.
Better grant programs, academic options, and learning tools will help, but this is a culture problem first and foremost. And that’s hard to change. I don’t yet see evidence that we’ve connected economic pain of this recession with the need to improve education especially STEM. Wall Street fiascos masked a more fundamental erosion of US competitiveness. The most important long term issue for the US is education for innovation. We need a STEM culture.