The Commonwealth Blog

America Slips in the Science and Math Olympics

May 16, 2011 @ 11:33 AM by jzipperer with [0] comments
America Slips in the Science and Math Olympics

By James Dohnert

With a future filled with scientific challenges, it’s up to today’s young minds to prepare to solve tomorrow’s greatest mysteries. But with no moon landing to excite eager young minds and fewer opportunities to let them get motivated, how do you produce the next wave of scientists?

"First of all, we have to change what we expect of our students,” Michigan State University Professor Bill Schmidt told CNN. Arguing for a more challenging student curriculum for grades K-to-12, Professor Schmidt also hopes that the United States adopts a more demanding attitude of kids, not only at school but at home as well. "We have to have parents who say: This is important. We don't have the luxury of not challenging our children. If we don't challenge them, how will we ever know that they can't do it?" Schmidt said.

At the time of the first moon landing, the average age of NASA engineers was 26 years old; today the average age is 50. With fewer and fewer students deciding to major in science and mathematics, America’s edge in technological innovation may be slipping. And the need for scientific thinkers can’t be understated if the United States hopes to be the home to the next Internet revolution. “For more than 200 years, this country has been the birthplace of major technological triumphs that have revolutionized societies and cultures,” said FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) founder Dean Kamen in a CNN commentary. “However, these phenomenal successes will become distant memories unless America can re-ignite kids' passions for science and inventing.”

The future isn’t what it used to be, and great ideas require great science. Not everyone is Steve Jobs, but anyone has the potential to be an engineer at Apple. With proper education and motivation, maybe we can unearth the person who finds a cure for cancer, or at least a doctor to help treat it. Inquisitive and scientific minds are still being created, but without the proper tools they might never be molded. As questions of sustainable energy and global warming face the world, it will be up to today's children to be tomorrow's problem solvers.

What do you think? Why aren’t America's youth interested in becoming scientists or mathematicians? How can we make science interesting again? Add your comments below or on our Facebook page.

Also be sure to check out upcoming Commonwealth Club events like these:

June 7, 2011 - 6:00 p.m.
The Future of Innovation and Consumer Electronics
What lessons can be learned from the electronics industry that can be applied to other segments of the U.S. comeback? Come hear from the head of an organization that represents 2,000 technology companies and produces the International CES Conference.

May 25, 2011 - 6:30 p.m.
Jack Dorsey: 21st Century Visionary Award
Join us as Inforum gives Twitter Co-Founder Jack Dorsey its 21st Century Visionary Award, and learn more about the "technologist who thinks differently."