The right way to get kids excited about science, math

The
U.S. government does not have the authority to dictate what a student
studies. Any federal education law that dictates curricula, no matter
what its intent, will have the double dishonor of being
unconstitutional and a failure. Problems with math and science
education are neither a lack of availability nor a lack of requirement;
local school districts require more math and science education in
earlier grades than ever before.

Teryn Norris and Jesse
Jenkins of Breakthrough Generation wrote on this page recently that a
federal National Energy Education Act is needed to promote education in
math and science to modernize our energy infrastructure. This proposal
illustrates the modern problem: lack of excitement on the part of
American youths for the study of math and the physical sciences.

There
is something wrong in the modern education system when bright children
learn to hate math and science. When I was a youth, every year or two
there was a news article about a teenager designing an implosion atomic
bomb for a science fair and publishing the plans (this was way before
the Internet); today, many science fair projects relate to the
information sciences or environmental sciences. Much of this can be
attributed to encouragement from the instructional staff. Students are
essentially taught that nuclear, radiation and petroleum
are bad words; there is no encouragement to delve into atomic and
nuclear sciences, or to exploit natural resources for the benefit of
society.

There is a problem in education, and educators must
first admit they need help before it can be resolved. The key to
revitalization of math and physical science education is feedback from
industry and professional groups to education professionals of where
they are missing the mark. Until math instructors teach how an engineer
or scientist solves a word problem and science instructors teach about
the messy sciences of high-volume energy production, we will continue
to struggle with fielding technically savvy students who are excited to
become scientists, engineers, and informed citizens.

Government
edicts will not excite a new crop of scientists and engineers. Only by
immersing them in the complexities and necessities facing society can
the next generation of technical students be inspired to want to
develop inherently safe designs or multiply redundant backup systems,
and to consider the public risk posed by any and all energy generation
technologies – from offshore oil drilling to production of solar cells.




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