I don’t know what will solve our problems — and they are quite daunting problems.
But every expert seems to imply that education is a major piece of any solution. And yet, we seem to be floundering in that department.
I was reading this article this morning in Slate, Can America Ever Have Another “Sputnik Moment”? Our amazing response to Sputnik made America richer and stronger. But here’s why it would be almost impossible to duplicate that today by Fred Kaplan, and read this paragraph:
Not quite one year later (after Sputnik), on Sept. 2, 1958, Congress passed the National Defense Education Act, the first lines of which read:
The Congress hereby finds and declares that the security of the Nation requires the fullest development of the mental resources and technical skills of its young men and women. The present emergency demands that additional and more adequate educational opportunities be made available. The defense of this Nation depends upon the mastery of modern techniques developed from complex scientific principles. It depends as well upon the discovery and development of new principles, new techniques, and new knowledge.
Look again at this line:
The Congress hereby finds and declares that the security of the Nation requires the fullest development of the mental resources and technical skills of its young men and women.
And later in the article, “there was a consensus—a politically accepted consensus—on the problem and the remedy.”
And with that, we did discover and develop new principles, new techniques, new knowledge. And then, we went to the moon.
Clarity in diagnosis, resolve, and then targeted resources, create results. Are we lacking in all three today?
The article has more, like:
So what lessons does the original “Sputnik Moment” hold for the prospect of improving science education today?
First, there has to be a threat that animates the American people. It can be just a perceived threat, but the perception has to be based on something tangible. Second, there should be consensus about how to deal with the threat. Third, this solution should be linked to proposals favored by those who might not be so keen if the solution were offered on its own.
Obama was right that we need a “Sputnik Moment.” But, like the original, it will require a change in thinking, an expansion in the permissible boundaries of what government can legitimately do. Also like the original, it may take a catastrophe—or the widespread perception of a catastrophe—to galvanize the change.
Read the article!