During President Barack Obama’s recent State of the Union address, engineers might have been encouraged by some of the important words coming from the president’s mouth.
“The quality of our math and science education lags behind many other nations’.”
“And over the next ten years, with so many Baby Boomers retiring from our classrooms, we want to prepare 100,000 new teachers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.”
“We need to teach our kids that it’s not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair.”
Sound familiar? STEM has become an enormously popular issue, and STEM education is one of NSPE’s top-five government relations priorities (along with qualifications-based selection, a comprehensive energy policy, infrastructure improvement, and Good Samaritan protection for engineers volunteering in a declared emergency).
And the president’s comments are especially fitting in light of a recent report from the National Research Council. The report predicts difficulties in establishing useful and effective K-12 engineering education standards and suggests that engineering education be folded into the standards that have already been established for science, technology, and math. The report also says federal agencies desiring improvement in STEM education should team up with foundations and professional engineering societies to develop core ideas for engineering education, instructional guidelines, research, and measuring the impact of possible reforms.
Obama can’t do it alone. Any desire to strengthen science, technology, engineering, and math education must be backed either by acts of Congress or action at the state level.
There is recent precedent for STEM support on Capitol Hill. NSPE backed a move by four members of the most recent Congress to bolster engineering and STEM education. Congress also reauthorized the America COMPETES Act in December. The program funds investments in science and engineering research and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education from kindergarten to the postdoctoral level.
And an early indication of the new Congress’s views on STEM could surface at the upcoming “Diversity and Inclusion Fuels Innovation in STEM Capitol Hill Day.” During this April 14 event, which NSPE is cosponsoring with the Society of Women Engineers, leaders from both groups will discuss the importance of science, technology, engineering, and math education with Congressional leaders.
Recognition of the importance of STEM from the White House is an encouraging advancement on an NSPE priority. Like all promises in the State of the Union, however, it’s what happens after the speech that matters most.
Published January 28, 2011 by NSPE
Filed under: STEM,