Monday, May 26, 2008

Mars Phoenix Lander and Science Education Reform

I watched in suspense and awe, along with 1500+ other viewers, the Ustream feed as the Phoenix Lander touched down on Mars. Kudos to bencredible's spacevidcast for the show. Like another, I had to think, 1500 viewers? But my reflection was, why not 15,000? I remember as a kid every trip into space was an event. Everyone was gathered around the TV to hear Walter Cronkite or Jules Bergman relay the news from Cape Canaveral or Houston. I was too young to pay attention to the details but I knew this was something great that we were doing and everyone wanted to follow the event. What has happened? It was just these things that drove me and many of my generation to science and math as students. This was a different time. This was a time in which there was a national resolve to make science a priority.
It was a time which supported strong science curricula like the BSCS and PSSC. Curricula "encouraging engagement and understanding as opposed to memorization." Where is that leadership now? Who is going to set the sight of the Nation for something that may require a decade or two to reach fruition? Who is going to banish quiz show science courses for curricula which will give us students capable of handling the technological obstacles before us? Or maybe 2 Million Minutes offers a glimpsed of the reality. To paraphrase its producer It is not an indictment of our educational system as much as it is an indictment of our social system. Excellence in the sciences is no longer a priority for the nation, then how can we expect our young people to put forth the effort to excel? We haven't had a leader to encourage our students in this direction for a long time. I wouldn't think of endorsing a candidate here, but I am, before November, going to listen hard for sounds of that leadership.

No comments: