There’s a lot of talk about how U.S. schools neglect science and math in the curriculum. So it should be no surprise that National Engineers Week went mostly unnoticed as well.
Of course, the week launched on Valentine’s Day and nothing says “Be Mine” like an algorithm and robotics talk. But still. Their goals are noble if not romantic. The group behind the week, Lockheed Martin, just wants to get more science, technology, engineering and math into the schools.
The question is, how do we get more kids interested and educated in technology and math? More classes? More rigor?
The problem with just upping standards is there’s nothing to attach these things to. I think there’s a missing connection between the sciences and careers — actually employment — especially in schools where every other parent isn’t a PhD or even a mid-level professional of some kind. So programs like Lockheed Martin’s, which bring scientists and engineers in the classroom doing there thing could get some kids’ attention. (As does following this guy on Twitter — he tweets in two languages).
But also, in adding to the school science and math curriculum, I hope schools won’t just up the standards, add more homework, make it even more abstract, which is the direction so many schools seem to go. Pretty soon, we’ll expect Kindergartners to do algebra and then wonder why they can’t. Instead, science and math should be about discovery and experimentation and real-world applications of the methods and means. You know, fun?
For that, we’ll need thoughtful curriculum, teacher training and a connection between those working in the sciences and the people they hope will someday replace them. We need those people to show us why math isn’t boring or a test for memory skills, rather, it’s something really cool and not really so incomprehensible (like this guy did recently in the NY Times). I’d love for science to compete with other areas of excitement for young children’s attention.
Ray Johnson, Lockheed Martin chief technology officer puts it this way: “I’m going to maybe draw on an analogy to sports. There’s a thrill — we talk about the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat — and everybody understands the thrill that comes with achieving a goal. That same kind of thrill, that same kind of exhilaration, can come from engineers and scientists solving difficult problems.”