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Obama Kicks Off Massive Science Education Effort 801

In a speech at the White House today, President Obama launched a new campaign, "Educate to Innovate," designed to get American students fired up about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The full text of the speech is also available on "The new campaign builds on the President's Inaugural Address, which included a vow to put science 'in its rightful place.' One of those rightful places, of course, is the classroom. Yet too often our schools lack support for teachers or the other resources needed to convey the practical utility and remarkable beauty of science and engineering. As a result, students become overwhelmed in their classes and ultimately disengaged. They lose, and our nation loses too. The partnerships launched today aim to change that. They respond to a challenge made by the President in April, when he spoke at the annual meeting of the National Academy of Sciences and asked the nation's philanthropists, professional and educational societies, corporations, and individuals to collaborate and innovate with the goal of reinvigorating America's STEM educational enterprise. The partnerships announced today — dramatic commitments in the hundreds of millions of dollars, generated through novel collaborations and creative outreach activities — are just the first wave of commitments anticipated in response to his call."
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Obama Kicks Off Massive Science Education Effort

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  • by Monkeedude1212 ( 1560403 ) on Monday November 23, 2009 @05:01PM (#30205890) Journal

    America's artistic value continues to decline with each hollywood blockbuster to be released. No studies whatsoever have been made to test if it could possibly be correlated to poor schooling in the fields of Language Arts, Drama/Theatre, and Humanitarian studies.

    Up Next, a story about how a 3 legged dog saved a baby.

  • STEM... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rayharris ( 1571543 ) on Monday November 23, 2009 @05:02PM (#30205906)
    still can't compete with PS, Xbox, Wii, DS, etc.

    Which is why we're heading towards second-world country status.
  • Easier solution: (Score:4, Insightful)

    by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Monday November 23, 2009 @05:05PM (#30205940)

    Massive cash awards to US scientists. These kids choose not to go into science because it is not cool. Why is it not cool? Lots of hardwork and small incomes. If you give scientists boat loads of money, they become cool.

    Instead we will waste another $huge_amount dollars on some lame education effort only to have the kids still want to be Kobe Bryant, or Dr. Dre.

  • fired up, huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Monday November 23, 2009 @05:09PM (#30205988)

    ...designed to get American students fired up about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

    No offense, Mr. President, but you want to know what really gets us fired up about those things? Getting paid for it. There are a select few of us that are willing to work for peanuts making the world a better place, spending hours working intractable problems, and sacrificing our social and sex lives all for the sake of The Greater Good. The rest of us -- we want to be paid for our work. The work isn't glamorous -- it's demanding, thankless, and for most requires an expensive education that they aren't reimbursed for. This field in particular (information technology) was gutted about seven years ago under the last administration in the name of short term profits. There is no R&D budget left for innovation, and not much has happened that's revolutionary in this industry since the bubble burst.

    If you want to showcase our science and technology, start by making this country the best place to be for it once again -- rather than watching as Europe turns on the LHC while ours sits half-finished in Texas. Send some money to the Department of Energy to fund some physics over here. Give some grant money out so we can deploy a successor to the internet that doesn't suck, controlled by private interests who only want to sell us viagra, cheap thrills, pay per view, and piss-poor last mile connections. Put us back in space, which was once a source of national pride and now languishes as an embarassment. And cancel Enterprise -- goddamn that show sucks!

  • Re:STEM... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by oldspewey ( 1303305 ) on Monday November 23, 2009 @05:12PM (#30206024)
    The definitions I learned are broadly similar to yours, but make no mention whatsoever of "Nato" and "Warsaw Pact." Maybe you shouldn't be so quick to assume your paradigm is the one and only correct one.
  • by fiendo ( 217830 ) on Monday November 23, 2009 @05:13PM (#30206052)
    Unless the proposal includes some tactics for getting the parents involvement, it'll be doomed before it starts. Education happens outside of the classroom just as much as in it and a child's mindset regarding education (no matter the field) is strongly influenced by their parents' mindset.
  • Parents . . . (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PolygamousRanchKid ( 1290638 ) on Monday November 23, 2009 @05:14PM (#30206060)

    Parents, parents, parents.

    They are in the best position (or should be!) to motivate their kids. If they can't, no billion dollar program will either.

  • by techno-vampire ( 666512 ) on Monday November 23, 2009 @05:19PM (#30206138) Homepage
    Ditch zero tolerance and standardized tests and the problem will solve itself.

    Even better, ditch the Department of Education with its centralized planning, heavy handed bureaucracy and one-size-fits-nobody policies and return the control of education to local school boards. Let them decide for themselves what's right for their district and what isn't because no two school districts are alike, and what works for one fails for another.

  • by Morris Thorpe ( 762715 ) on Monday November 23, 2009 @05:21PM (#30206168)

    The teacher unions complained loud and early about this plan. They pushed hard for (and eventually) got numerous changes to the original proposal.

    Most of my kids' teachers have been good people generally interested in educating kids. The unions, on the other hand, are out of touch with the classroom and mostly interested in their own survival.

    Sorry to be so cynical - and I only speak from personal experience - but I have yet to see the unions fight to get their way about something (tenure, testing methods, school hours, curriculum, etc.) and get a positive result in the end. And with this much money at stake...

  • bucks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheMeuge ( 645043 ) on Monday November 23, 2009 @05:22PM (#30206176)

    Not going to happen.

    A post-doc doing biomedical research (which is the highest-paid field) makes $40k at NYU. This is after spending 4 years in college, and then doing research for 6 years making a $25k/year stipend. With a conversion rate of under 1 percent for faculty positions (which don't pay that much more anyway), why in the world would anyone actually do that to themselves?! You'd have to be REALLY driven to want to work 60+ hour weeks, under the perpetual stress of having your grant pulled, for less than subway ticket clerks make.

    Even better, in our new future we'll hamstring doctors and nurses pay, and make sure that nobody gives a damn about that kind of science too.

    As for physics and chemistry (and I am not even talking about Mathematics), we've already driven them into the ground. No need to worry any further.

  • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Monday November 23, 2009 @05:28PM (#30206272) Journal

    You know I think they (meaning the government) have this backwards. Engineering and science is FUN. You get to learn all kinds of neat facts, and do cool projects like building solar-powered cabins or toy cars while going through your high school & college courses.

    It's the real world that sucks. I enjoyed my engineering/science right up to the point where I graduated, and they stuck me in a little tiny cubicle, by myself, staring at boring code and schematics. Day-after-day. Week-after-week. Year-after-year.

    That's when it stopped being fun.

  • Re:Sounds good? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 23, 2009 @05:33PM (#30206336)

    Heh, except that game testing is boring, boring, boring. You (mostly) don't play the game, you have to go to every last little place on the level, see if you can walk through it, see if effects, weapons, etc. work in weird places, and document that stuff.

    And if the game you're working on is a stupid pile-of-crap, you don't get the option of saying "this sucks" and putting in your favorite game instead.

  • by Colin Smith ( 2679 ) on Monday November 23, 2009 @05:33PM (#30206342)

    As for physics and chemistry (and I am not even talking about Mathematics), we've already driven them into the ground. No need to worry any further.

    The problem is there just isn't a big market for science. I really can't advise anyone to take science at all. Not for money anyway.

    There is however a big market for Quants.


  • by Profane MuthaFucka ( 574406 ) <> on Monday November 23, 2009 @05:36PM (#30206370) Homepage Journal

    It's obvious that local school boards can't run their schools according to standards. We should have a national educational governance with the ability to override the folly of local school board.

    For further information, see "Creationists take over local school board and fuck everyone's chances of being accepted into a college"

  • by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Monday November 23, 2009 @05:36PM (#30206382)
    It's just another way to sew up left-handed votes from the teachers' unions.

    The actual efficacy of science education is almost entirely driven by culture, and that's almost entirely driven by the way a kid is raised. He's going to be in a science classroom ready to thrive and learn and see the big picture, or not ready to - because of how his parents have armed him for a world view that takes it all rationally into account. Parents with no sense of wonder about science? Kids without one, too.

    How this administration thinks it's going to change the culture which sends kids to school - in a way that will make them happy sponges for science - even as it seeks to establish an entitlement Nanny State funded by borrowing money from countries where science (pure and applied) is actually valued and cultivated... no idea. But then, Obama has no idea, either. This is Community Organizing, around a slogan, at its classic best. Empty, meaningless platitudes that don't actually call on parents to actually do the hard work of hatching out and maintaining a curious, intellectually honest child.

    Why? Because the left's power comes from asserting that parents can't and shouldn't be responsible - that the state should be in charge of those young meat computers, instead. An administration that's all about lefty group-think and completely empty utterances about Hope and Change is not actually interested in a culture of innovative, self-sufficient thinkers operating in any sphere. The want a thin layer of academics calling the shots from the top, and lot of It-Took-A-Village kids raised to vote for a Nanny State to keep them employed and in power. This particular iniative is a joke, in the context of who's cheerleading for it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 23, 2009 @05:38PM (#30206394)

    The silver bullet for education is very simple: Fix society. There's nothing inherently wrong with our schools. The problem is that schools are nothing but a microcosm of our society. We think that because schools are full of kids we have some special control over them, but that's generally not true. Kids learn what to value first from their parents, second from their role models (which are usually popular media figures), third from their peers, and only then from teachers. It's even worse when you think you can control teenagers who are not children.

    Parents that do not value education produce kids that do not value educations. Parents with no ambitions produce kids with no ambitions. A society that values fame and fortune over science and progress produces kids that value fame and fortune over science and progress.

    Quite simply, sick schools are a symptom of the real disease, a sick society. Of course few want to admit our society is sick, and even fewer want to make an effort to fix it. They'd rather just pretend that there's a magic trick to turning blank children (who aren't really blank) into perfect adults. Well sorry adults, but a) kids will turn out fine without you trying to "fix" them, and b) YOU are the real problem. We have to do what we want kids to do: We have to take responsibility and try to fix things instead of pushing problems onto somebody else, i.e. another generation.

    Fix society, and you fix schools. It's that simple. Fixing society isn't that simple? Tough. Either do it or stop complaining about schools.

  • Re:fired up, huh? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MadAnalyst ( 959778 ) on Monday November 23, 2009 @05:39PM (#30206414)
    You know what really pays like crap? Teaching.

    I have one of those fancy scientific degrees the parent mentions, and a good job to go with it. I enjoyed teaching in college (TA work in lab and lecture) and think I do pretty decently at it. But it will be a long time until I consider teaching because the pay stinks and I got me a load a debts to manage (thanks to my fancy education).

    I guess I'm just stating a moderately true idea that it is often those who can't that teach. I can, so I am somewhere doing the higher paid option. I don't really love it every day, but the almighty dollar matters right now. Would I enjoy teaching more? I just might, particularly the sense of achievement that comes with improving our youth (also called getting to be smug about it). But that field can't afford me right now.

  • by ThreeE ( 786934 ) on Monday November 23, 2009 @05:41PM (#30206446)

    I don't support teaching creationism, but Kansans should be able to decide what gets taught in Kansas - not the federal government.

  • by Idiomatick ( 976696 ) on Monday November 23, 2009 @05:42PM (#30206464)
    Unless they are mad in which case they can afford a lair and deathrays in space. Also, they have no boss or people funding them to answer to.
  • by altoz ( 653655 ) on Monday November 23, 2009 @05:47PM (#30206540)

    Blaming the DoE, standardized tests and zero tolerance for education failure is like blaming extra paper cups for the bankruptcy of Enron. It might contribute, but it isn't the big problem.

    There are tons of other countries with bigger standardized tests, even less tolerance and bigger departments of education with more heavy-handed bureaucracy that produce way more scientists per capita. Look at any east Asian country, for instance.

    The big problem is really obvious. It's the quality of teachers. And it's not that the teachers are bad per se, it's that they're unmotivated to do better. Teacher's unions make it so that you get paid on years on the job and tenure, not how well you teach. Decoupling rewards with results in this way has been the single worst decision in education in this country.

    Look at most charter schools. They flourish. Why? Because the teachers are motivated to teach well, not just do well until they get to tenure status.

  • by Knara ( 9377 ) on Monday November 23, 2009 @05:47PM (#30206542)

    While I won't argue that Hollywood isn't currently stuck in a "remake rut", realize that much of what we consider to be classics of literature (the popular medium before moving pictures) was considered popular trash at the time. That's before we even consider that what we now perceive as the "quality" of years past is simply the filtered gems of those eras, with the chaff cast away and trodden into obscurity by the relentless march of popular culture.

    There are gems still hidden here and there in the modern age, even in pop music. For example, did you know that one of Avril Lavigne's hits "Damn Cold Night" is actually a waltz?

    Art is there if you have your eyes open.

  • by CannonballHead ( 842625 ) on Monday November 23, 2009 @05:48PM (#30206554)

    Only suckers do science right now.

    And people that actually love it.

    It'd be nice to reward that category before rewarding people that just want to make money and don't care about the field.

  • by HockeyPuck ( 141947 ) on Monday November 23, 2009 @05:54PM (#30206636)

    Corp america doesn't care how many millions of kids become engineers or scientists. It'll always be cheaper to hire an engineer in India/China than in the US. My company (large IT company), hasn't had any layoffs, but all the hiring that has been happening has been overseas. So when the CEO gets on the quarterly call and says that the company has continued to hire people; he leaves out the little footnote about how 90% of them are overseas.

  • Standards? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WinPimp2K ( 301497 ) on Monday November 23, 2009 @05:56PM (#30206664)
    What standards would those be? And if it is something the Feds can do, let them prove it in the one school sytem Congress can take direct responsibility for. After all, if the DC school system is truly excellent, then there should be no problem applying those policies and funding decisions to other school systems. What, the DC school system is not among the finest in the nation?

    The Quality Counts report, a publication from Editorial Projects in Education, which publishes the trade magazine Education Week, rated the 50 states and the District in six areas of education performance and policy.

    The District was ranked 51st in the report

    Maybe we should return control of local school systems back to local school boards. And let Congress and the DOE control only the DC school system. When the DC school system is ranked among the top 25 then perhaps we might want to pay attention to the example set by Washington. Pay attention to the example - not do as they say. Under local control, some schools would undoubtably do better, some might do worse, but DC is dead last right now - so even your religious nutjob nightmare districts are still likely to do a better job than the nations capital.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 23, 2009 @05:58PM (#30206700)
    Because spelling well at a young age is the ultimate measure of balance and success and probability of excellent future accomplishments.
  • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Monday November 23, 2009 @05:59PM (#30206728) Homepage
    Well, you fool. You made the classic mistake.

    You grew up.

    Don't ever do that.
  • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Monday November 23, 2009 @06:05PM (#30206782) Journal

    >>>Substituting experts making decisions on a national scale is a pretty good idea.

    Perhaps but it's not authorized. "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." In other words the right to regulate education belongs to your local State government, until you expand the Constitution with an amendment.

  • Re:stem cells (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 23, 2009 @06:06PM (#30206798)

    Right wingers don't have a problem with ADULT stem cells, just embryonic stem cells. So there won't be any problems.

    Funding embryonic stem cells is pretty pointless anyway. All current breakthroughts involve adult stem cells. And even if embryonic stem cells were successiful, you'd have to take anti-rejection drugs for life since those aren't you're cells. It's much simpler to just take your own cells, and if necessary, fix problems in the DNA than deal with the problems of embryonic stem cells.

  • Re:bucks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Monday November 23, 2009 @06:07PM (#30206812)

    When you're really young, you might think that doing something you like and getting enough money to pay for a small apartment and some Ramen noodles is a good deal. However, when you get a little older, you realize there's more to life than work. Many people like the idea of dating and getting married. Many of those like the idea of also having children.

    No decent woman is going to marry you if you have a job working 100 hours/week (which means you're never home to spend time with her) and only make $25k (which means you can't even support her). No decent woman will want to have children with you when you're never home, and don't make any money to buy them decent clothes and food, forcing her to apply for welfare. Dating is a competition with all the other males out there, and not many women are going to choose you when they can get some other guy who makes 3x as much money and who has time to spend helping her raise the kids.

    Asking prospective scientists to give up their chances at marriage and family is beyond insulting.

  • by b1t r0t ( 216468 ) on Monday November 23, 2009 @06:10PM (#30206854)
    Yeah, it's a shame that there isn't some level of government between local school boards and the billion-pound gorilla that is the federal government.
  • by b1t r0t ( 216468 ) on Monday November 23, 2009 @06:13PM (#30206892)

    And of course Kansas is part of Congress. Oh, wait, never mind.

    I personally don't like the idea of states pushing a creationism agenda, but I think the tenth amendment gets ignored way too much.

  • by damn_registrars ( 1103043 ) <> on Monday November 23, 2009 @06:17PM (#30206954) Homepage Journal
    Conservatives declare war on science to spite "the liberal agenda" in ...

    Nevermind, they declared war on science some time ago. As much as I love my job I hate the fact that my entire field is a political football, kicked around everytime the leadership in Washington changes. Why on earth supporting scientific research has become a partisan issue is beyond me; scientific research benefits people of all political persuasions.
  • by Zen_Sorcere ( 1303425 ) on Monday November 23, 2009 @06:17PM (#30206960)
    The problem one risks with that policy is long term. Stupid people will breed more stupid people, and more often, than educated people will breed educated people. Eventually, over the course of time, the stupid people largely outnumber the educated ones, and they start determining the course of legislation and whatnot. The educated lot needs to get some safeguards in place or 5 generations down the road, our children will be mindless sheeple.
  • by gsgriffin ( 1195771 ) on Monday November 23, 2009 @06:18PM (#30206976)
    I've been to different parts of the world where kids have much less to learn with and yet reach very high in education. They have a value in their home that causes them to strive for the most. Here in America, there is much less emphasis placed on how hard we must try, because ultimately, if you drop out and do nothing, the government will still give you a home, food, and soon all the health care you may need. In other places in the world, if you don't try hard the government will give you nothing and watch you starve.

    Let be honest with ourselves, we're not going to be really striving hard until it is essential for it is in most of the rest of the world. We're our own worst enemy in making life easier and easier and requiring less and less effort. It seems that we ultimately desire to just sit back and let the world feed us while we just monitor the computer screen and get paid lots of money.

    Throw all the money you want at school, but ultimately I'm for looking the parents straight in the eye and asking them what they're doing.
  • by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Monday November 23, 2009 @06:19PM (#30206982)

    99% do not have the money to pay for their own care, the reality is most private bankruptcies are the result of a medical issue.

    We are paying for their medical care, like it or not, who do you think pays when the patient files bankruptcy?

    Our system is so messed up I have turned down better paying jobs due to the cost of their insurance.

    We have health discount plans not insurance. I do not need someone to pay every time I get the sniffles, I need millions in case I get brain cancer. Instead we have the worst of both worlds.

  • by bugnuts ( 94678 ) on Monday November 23, 2009 @06:23PM (#30207050) Journal

    The big problem is really obvious. It's the quality of teachers.

    It's not that obvious, nor that's the primary reason. It certainly might be contributing reason, but it's also unfair to a ton of good public teachers out there.

    I think the pres touched on the real reasons: demand for a good education by the parents. It's really the quality of parents that's the problem, not the quality of teachers. The parents don't value science, and neither will their kids. If they did, more people would enter the field. If parents demanded good educations, they would not tolerate poor teachers. They would also want teachers to get more money to be retained.

    Charter schools flourish because of the parents. Non-religious charter schools will lose all their students if they try to teach creationism as science, while religious schools might lose a good portion if they did the opposite. This is why charter schools flourish -- they teach what the parents want taught. When you shove them all together in a public school, you get conflicting parental desires for education, and then everything goes to hell.

  • by Monkeedude1212 ( 1560403 ) on Monday November 23, 2009 @06:24PM (#30207066) Journal

    Why do any of it then? What is the point of studying sciences aimed towards the continuation of the human race if we do not enjoy or encourage that which makes us human?

  • You forgot (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tepples ( 727027 ) <{tepples} {at} {}> on Monday November 23, 2009 @06:25PM (#30207092) Homepage Journal

    The other half of the story is that 30 million of those Americans are uninsured but covered by government programs like SCHIP and Medicare. The remaining ones are illegal intruders (non-citizens).

    You left out lawful tax-paying immigrants not yet naturalized, and you also left out people whom all the available insurance companies have declined to cover due to a preexisting condition.

  • by david_thornley ( 598059 ) on Monday November 23, 2009 @06:26PM (#30207118)

    Okay, how do home-schooled children do when compared to children of reasonably well-educated parents who take a lot of interest in the child and his or her education? There's a tremendous amount of selection bias here.

  • by QuoteMstr ( 55051 ) <> on Monday November 23, 2009 @06:38PM (#30207312)

    You say parents won't be involved, and therefore this initiative is doomed. Therefore we shouldn't even try. And since we can't compel parents to do better, let's sit on our thumbs. That's not an argument. That's an excuse.

    Go to hell. We need better education in this country, and if parents can't be bothered, then schools must take up the slack. Old approaches not working? Then let's try some new ones. Let's think of a better way to tackle the problem! We can do it!

    Americans used to be famous world-wide for a "can-do" attitude: we used to look at a problem and think of ways to fix it. These days, we have defeatism embedded in our culture. People like you and most of my other countrymen look at a problem and think "ah, that's hard. Crap. Let me go back to World of Warcraft."

    Get up off your ass and start thinking of solutions. Get rid of that defeatist attitude.

  • by techno-vampire ( 666512 ) on Monday November 23, 2009 @06:38PM (#30207316) Homepage
    Its been my observation that local school boards are the breeding ground of fascist police statists

    Judging from context, I don't think that the word fascist [] means what you think it does. Before complaining about how school boards act, I'd suggest that you fill this hole in your own education.

  • by Falconhell ( 1289630 ) on Monday November 23, 2009 @06:41PM (#30207358) Journal

    "What I do NOT believe is that you can force your neighbors to pay the bill."


    What he really means "I am a heartless selfish asshole who would rather watch unfortunate poor people die in the gutter than pay a pittance for a decent universal health care scheme".

    I pay into 1.5% of my salary above 30K Australias universal health care and am happy to do so. It works very well. We have good health care for everyone. If you want private insurance you can have that too, and get a tax rebate.

    Our government spends less to give universal health care than yours does to NOT provlde it.

    Drink the republican kool-aid much.

  • by QuoteMstr ( 55051 ) <> on Monday November 23, 2009 @06:47PM (#30207466)

    And Asia one day will be where we are.

    Don't forget your history. In the 40s, 50s, and 60s, scientists and technicians were practically revered in this country. We valued the idea(l) of progress, and were convinced that we could improve our lives through the application of knowledge. And we did. Learning was valued, and science was respected.

    That's all changed now, of course. But respect for learning isn't a uniquely Asian cultural phenomenon: rather, it's what you see in a society after it's become prosperous, but before it's become decadent.

  • by CannonballHead ( 842625 ) on Monday November 23, 2009 @06:48PM (#30207490)

    Is it really necessary to have 8 years of education to become the equivalent of an organic engineer (doctor)? No.

    Ummm... says who? Personally, I like the idea of having my doctor know what he's talking about. Not just "Oh, I saw this done once," but actually be able to explain to me what muscles he's going to be working on, what they have to do with my eye, why the curvature of the lens is important, etc. There's a ton of information there. And it's not like you can section one part of the body off, it's very helpful to know about the entire thing.

    But hey, if you want undereducated doctors, feel free to go to surgeons in another part of the world. Hospitals and American-educated (and Indian, to some extent, I guess) doctors frequently complain about foreign-educated doctors. They don't know as much, they are somewhat careless, and their English is hard to understand (hehe). No, not a slam against all non-Americans... but I think American medical education is very good. Costly? Yup. But very good. Which is why every rich person in the world goes to an American university to get care. Ok, over-generalization, but ....

    Medical education is a huge deal. And I'm willing to pay for a perhaps over-qualified doctor.

    Otherwise you get a double standard. Yeah, you can solder and debug a circuit card... but what if that circuit card was irreplaceable and if you messed up your soldering you would die on the spot. Do you think you'd like to have a qualified, if not MASSIVELY OVERQUALIFIED person do it? And pay extra for it? Or would you still go out and hire the cheapest guy who can say "Oh yeah, I've been soldering for years now. So, what does this circuit board do, again? Why can't you just get a new one?"

    Not a direct analogy, but seriously... when you are touching my eyes, my hearts, my lungs, my kidneys... I want you to be pretty qualified, educated, and skilled. And I'm willing to pay extra for that.

  • Re:Standards? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by WinPimp2K ( 301497 ) on Monday November 23, 2009 @06:49PM (#30207500)

    You make interesting assumptions. They are incorrect.

    I don't have a problem with the Interstate highway system either.

    More internet - you darn betcha - but I also think it should be metered so you pay for what you use. The rates charged should be such that the comm industry will have an incentive to improve it and increase speeds.

    Less Education - Umm no. less Federal interfernce in education as the only school system the Federal gowvenmrnt is directly responsible for is ranked dead last in the country. If the Feds could demonstrate an ability to do better than half the country, then they would have an example worth looking at - for the half of the country they do better than.

    Military hardware - Well the US is currently riding on the tiger there - the alternative may well be riding inside the tiger.

    Less health care - less health care for whom? How much money do you donate to charity hospitals? Is it OK for me to hold a gun to your head to make you "donate" more? If it is not OK for me to do that, why should it be OK if it is the federal govenrment holding the gun?

  • by QuoteMstr ( 55051 ) <> on Monday November 23, 2009 @06:49PM (#30207502)

    KNOWN broken system

    Actually, the rest of the goddamn civilized world shows us that the system we're trying to build here is the one that actually works, and it is ours that is the known-broken one.

    But I don't expect ideologues like you to apply reason to these things. After all, America, Fuck Yeah!

  • by Iyonesco ( 1482555 ) on Monday November 23, 2009 @06:51PM (#30207520)

    When Tony Blair came to power a decade ago he listed his three priorities as "Education, Education, Education". Since that time New Labour have lowered standards in education to the point where school leavers are now totally unemployable and near illiterate. The UK education system renders most children unemployable and 20% of youths between the age of 16 and 24 are currently out of work. I was interested in becoming a teacher at one point but after visting a secondary school and seeing what was being taught I was completely put off the idea. GCSE students were learning what I would expect to be taught in a primary school and the textbooks were filled more with New Labour propaganda than anything of value. With no skills it's little wonder none of them can get a job upon leaving education.

    So, what does any of this have to do with President Obama? Like New Labour Obama is obsessed with "Equality for all" and where there is not equality he will create false equality. Instead of accepting that all men are not created equal and that students have widely differing levels of academic ability he will force a false equality. The only way you can force equality in education is to lower standards to the level of the least gifted student, and at that point everyone will attain the same incredibly low standard of education thus total equality.

    Tony Blair did exactly what Obama is doing now, making s speeches about the importance of science with his usual sound bites like the future is “lit by the brilliant light of science”. Now there is absolutely no science being taught UK schools, at least nothing anyone here would call science. Science can be very complicated and if some students don't understand it then we won't have "Equality for all" so it has to be discarded from the curriculum. In order to achive his "Equality for all" Obama will have to do exactly what New Labour has done and I therefore expect that Obama will do for the US education system what Tony Blair and Gorden Brown have done for the UK.

    While everyone likes to criticise the Chinese government they have undoubtedly got their education system bang on right, separating students into different schools by ability and pushing the most gifted students to achieve in education. With a solid foundation of knowledge these highly educated individuals will go on to make the scientific and technological breakthroughs of the future, and China will reap the economic benefits associated with these breakthroughs. Meanwhile in the west our children won't even be able to write their names and western civilisation will collapse into poverty.

    "Equality for all" doesn't work and any attempts to force it, particularly in education, will destroy a nation.

  • by AmericanGladiator ( 848223 ) on Monday November 23, 2009 @06:52PM (#30207530)

    Agreed, but that wasn't my main point. I am simply implying that the assertion that the only way a child can be successful is to study evolution and no other point of view is a ridiculous one. Children from religious families who may not agree with evolution can be extremely intelligent, well-adjusted and successful. I only used home-schoolers as an example because I believe there tends to be a higher percentage of religious students who do that.

  • by catchblue22 ( 1004569 ) on Monday November 23, 2009 @06:52PM (#30207550) Homepage

    With our modern obsession with applicability and utility, where nothing seems to mean anything unless it makes money, we need to remember what science really is. Science isn't just a collection of facts. It isn't just an engine of economic growth. Science is above all a method of exposing nonsense for what it is. Science provides a method for anyone to identify truth from nonsense. When a dispute arises over whose assertions about the physical world are correct, we all agree to look to the physical world as the ultimate arbiter of truth, not to a priest, nor a CEO, nor a minister. Science cannot prove truth. It can only disprove nonsense.

    If we, as citizens of a democracy, lose the ability to tell nonsense from truth, then our civilization is in trouble.

  • by DesScorp ( 410532 ) <> on Monday November 23, 2009 @06:54PM (#30207574) Homepage Journal

    I'll readily agree with you that we have some lousy teachers, but the problems go far beyond them. Unions sink any disruptive reform that threatens their status or wealth, for instance. But there are deep structural problems with our very method of education, starting with the education major itself in colleges. We should frankly chuck education degrees for junior high and high school teaching. And there's no getting around the fact that education majors in most colleges are almost always from the lowest tier of ACT/SAT scores. We could debate all day about the virtues and vices of government involvement in education.

    But equally as big is the problem of students and their parents. Frankly, lots of people simply don't care about schooling. Many parents see school mainly as a place to get rid of their kids for 7 hours a day. Most kids see school as a chore to be endured, from one degree to another.

    Look at countries like Finland, where they spend less per pupil and less on facilities than we do. Their kids spend fewer days in school per year and fewer hours in class per day, and fewer years in what we would call the K-12 system. And yet they outgain US kids in all phases of standardized testing. Why? Simply put, there's a culture of responsibility.

    Until we find a way to change attitudes among parents and kids, all of the money and legislation in the world won't make a difference.

  • by QuoteMstr ( 55051 ) <> on Monday November 23, 2009 @06:55PM (#30207590)

    Your argument is that UK education was ruined by Tony Blair trying to equalize it for all.

    Have you considered the possibility that Tony Blair was a neocon who simply lied? That education was never a priority for him, and that it's fallen into disrepair through neglect, not through well-meaning but ill-conceived repairs?

    Blair didn't really want to fix education. His only goal was to destroy it for short-term political points. The same disease that's afflicted us on this side of the Atlantic has also infected you.

  • Re:Standards? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Monday November 23, 2009 @06:57PM (#30207618) Journal

    less Federal interfernce in education

    The countries that are kicking our asses in science education don't have "less Federal inerfernce" they have more. Plus, the countries that are most successful in teaching their children have free education, financed by taxpayers.

    When you scratch the surface of the "let the free market run everything" argument, you don't have to go very far before you start to see the FAIL showing through.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 23, 2009 @06:58PM (#30207628)

    The education policy can be dictated by the Fed through paying the schools with Federal tax dollars. In other words, the Fed ain't forcin' them to take the money, so its no violation of the constitution to put money with strings attached out there.

  • by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Monday November 23, 2009 @06:58PM (#30207636)
    you're actually claiming that education is actually a political ploy to garner more support for the left?

    No. I'm saying that the teachers' unions are dependable voters for Obama's party, as long he continues to throw them a bone in the form of money and power of far-reaching programs that involve the continued employment of their members under their terms. Education (especially as it relates to science) doesn't stick in a kid's head because of large government programs. It sticks in their heads because their parents have made them receptive to it in the first place. Big government programs don't cause parents to be more thoughtful about how they interact with their own kids.

    Obama knows this, just like every educator knows this. Which makes large, money-centric programs like this all about the people to whom the money goes: the unions. And the unions then take the dues they collect, and advertize on behalf of the politician than promises to deliver more of the same. Such unions were a big part of how Obama got elected, and he's doing payback, that's all ... and investing in the next round, when he'll need organized labor even more, since a lot of independents are going to be WAY more skittish this time around.

    You're arguing that your partisan gain is more important than the success of the next generation

    No. I'm saying that such programs have nothing to do with the success of the next generation, and are in fact all about the partisan gains pursued by the party dishing out the cash. Simple as that. Of course, you already knew that.
  • Re:Standards? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by WinPimp2K ( 301497 ) on Monday November 23, 2009 @07:05PM (#30207720)

    The countries that are kicking our asses...

    Well, they have found a method that works for them. We have not and so I see no reason to permit the Feds to dictate - they have had 50+ years (since Sputnik) and the results have not been encouraging.

    The part I don't understand is how you get from "less Federal interference" to "let the free market run everything".

    The US consists of 50 states, one District plus some other divisions (Protectorates and Territories I think - blame my poor education for not remembering). I think that gives us 50 plus different laboratories to see what will work as our current system is demonstrably not working. I submit the "ass kicking" you cite as proof that the current system is broken.

  • Re:Standards? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Monday November 23, 2009 @07:07PM (#30207748) Journal

    I wish you had not posted anonymously so I could thank you by name for your insight. In the US, we have more local governance of schools than most developed countries. The only time most school boards become aware of "Federal interference" is when they get money from the Federal government. And yet the schools fail. Even when the DOE tries to say to school districts, "If you're going to teach Science, please make sure it's really Science" you've got local school boards, packed with extremists, saying "We want to teach science out of the Bible", then when their students can't compete, they point back at the Federal government saying "You did this!"

    As you say, the Federal government through the DOE tries to bring up the levels of failing schools. There are still problems not because of Federal involvement, but because the problems are bigger than help the feds are sending. And with one of the major political parties dedicated to gutting the Department of Education (as well as the rest of the Federal government) there's little mystery in why it's not more successful.

  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Monday November 23, 2009 @07:17PM (#30207892) Journal

    but Kansans should be able to decide what gets taught in Kansas

    Not if they're going to ask for food stamps when they can't compete against students who are not taught science out of the bible.

    Look at the countries that are doing better jobs of teaching their children. You think they teach creationism in science class? How much time you think Japanese or Korean students spend in school prayer?

    Parents have 18 years to fill their kids' heads with whatever kind of mush they want. Can't they allow them a few short hours a day, 9 months a year, to at least have a shot at competing in the world? C'mon, give your kids at least a fighting chance.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 23, 2009 @07:19PM (#30207910)

    The big problem is really obvious. It's the quality of teachers.

    You get partial credit for this answer.

    Follow things back and ask why the quality of teachers is so low.

    It's because they don't get paid shit. Which is because the local municipality doesn't value teachers and the local over-65 heavy population will vote to keep their property taxes as low as they are in neighboring Hicksville. If they didn't form unions their pay would be driven down to the level of convenience store clerk with similar standards for applicants.

    Then, go ahead and beat on the teachers, but it's the students that are the ones doing the performing and not-performing. And a lot of student performance relates to the performance of the parents of those kids. Frankly, most parents are abjectly inattentive to producing good offspring, reading to them in the pre-school years, feeding them breakfast, turning off the TV, asking about how they're doing in school, going to student-teacher conferences, etc. There are no examinations prospective parents need to pass to have a kid and raise a kid, despite a preponderance of evidence that child-rearing practices strongly determine education outcomes.

    Let's take a little ownership of our own role in sustaining the educational trainwreck.

  • by Etrias ( 1121031 ) on Monday November 23, 2009 @07:34PM (#30208112)
    That expression goes back way before she trotted it out, and it's still being used, ad nauseum. Google it.

    Of course this is true, but context is everything. Seeing that you threw this in during your general rant against liberals and then capitalized the words, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what you're implying.

    More to the point of your question though is that you never do address the very thought of what you think is wrong with science education, which is the only way to have proper science education is get the parents involved. So how do you propose to do this, pray tell? Wave some magic wand to make parents who are too set in their ways to somehow imbue them with the necessary curiosity and objectivity to pass it on to their kids?

    But the government proposes a plan to spur science education and your fault is with the people who proposed it. Might as well throw up your hands and admit you either 1) don't think there is anything wrong with science education today or 2) admit that we cannot possibly change the status quo and give up. Seriously, I would love to hear your proposal to get all parents more involved with their children's education. I don't think you have any idea on how that can be accomplished, but if you have something, I'm all ears.

    Really? You stop being interested when you're reminded that your current president's only executive experience prior to his current OTJT, was his holding of that title? Yeah, I can see why you'd rather not be reminded of that.

    Seriously? This doesn't have a thing to do with the topic. And who cares about this unless you have some sort of cognitive dissonance about who got elected into office. Obviously, this weak argument didn't hold enough water during the campaign, you think I give a shit about it now?
  • Dude . . . (Score:3, Insightful)

    by StefanJ ( 88986 ) on Monday November 23, 2009 @07:35PM (#30208114) Homepage Journal

    If you listen to Fox News long enough, you'll be able to simultaneously believe that Obama is an Atheist, Muslim, Indonesian, Kenyan, a radical black Christian, and . . . have they gotten around to him being a reptoid yet?

    Doublethink is a form of trained, willful intellectual blindness to contradictions in a belief system. Doublethink differs from ordinary hypocrisy in that the "doublethinking" person deliberately had to forget the contradiction between his two opposing beliefs — and then deliberately forget that he had forgotten the contradiction. He then had to forget the forgetting of the forgetting, and so on; this intentional forgetting, once begun, continues indefinitely. In the novel's notes, Orwell describes it as "controlled insanity".

    -- Wikipedia on Doublethink.

  • by electrons_are_brave ( 1344423 ) on Monday November 23, 2009 @07:53PM (#30208308)
    I see your point, and that's why we need to make sure everyone can recieve a good, solid, free education. I do think though that "stupid" and "educated" are not the opposites you are making them out to be. I've met plenty of educated dumb people and many clever people with little schooling.

    Education also doesn't mean that people will make sensible decisions about "the course of legislation and whatnot". I'm sure you can insert the name of your own favourite university-educated idiot politician here.

  • by jasno ( 124830 ) on Monday November 23, 2009 @08:06PM (#30208458) Journal

    Mod parent up.

    Teachers aren't the problem. A thirst for learning and understanding begins before school begins. Even when that fire has been lit, society does its best to extinguish it.

    How many young people started down the right path until the social pressures to be cool and conform dampened their pursuit of knowledge?

  • by apoc.famine ( 621563 ) <> on Monday November 23, 2009 @08:37PM (#30208744) Journal

    You hit +5, so I won't try to upmod you anymore. I taught HS science for 5 years. You hit the nail on the head. There are lots of other issues, but that was the primary one I saw.
    The kids who's parents demanded they get a good education did. The other kids, the majority, did not. Intelligence was only part of the equation, for sure.

  • by Anarchduke ( 1551707 ) on Monday November 23, 2009 @08:45PM (#30208824)
    The problem is that both geniuses and idiots would probably do better in home schooled situations. The caveat for this is that the home schooling is actually done and the kid doesn't just run rampant.

    Our modern institutionalized schools teach to the average, and frequently hightly intellligent children are labelled with ADHD or hyperactivity when the truth is that they are merely bored. By the same token, children with a less than average IQ would be stuffed into a special education class, doomed with that label. Home schooling can allow geniuses to move ahead of their peers and allow slow learners to spend extra time learning what they need to, and in the end both benefit.

    Damned few people end up in Harvard or Julliard. It is better to give parents the tools to educate their children in whatever manner is best for the child. Honestly, it doesn't matter whether the child is taught creationism or evolution. Since most of those kids are going to grow up and become telephone sanitizers and the like, they hardly need to know much about physics, do they?
  • by fishthegeek ( 943099 ) on Monday November 23, 2009 @08:48PM (#30208844) Journal
    I disagree with your other 50%. The other 50% of the problem is parents who steadfastly refuse to guide their children expecting the school system to become defacto parents, all the responsibility but none of the authority. Teachers (myself included) for the most part desperately want the kids to do better. But when little Johnny has a diet disproportionately consisting of Sugar [], does not get enough sleep [], doesn't study [] as much as others [], and I can go on and on. When a parent isn't doing their job, the teachers job is infinitely more difficult. The problem with American education is American culture.
  • by indytx ( 825419 ) on Monday November 23, 2009 @09:06PM (#30208982)


    The big problem is really obvious. It's the quality of teachers. And it's not that the teachers are bad per se, it's that they're unmotivated to do better. Teacher's unions make it so that you get paid on years on the job and tenure, not how well you teach. Decoupling rewards with results in this way has been the single worst decision in education in this country.

    Look at most charter schools. They flourish. Why? Because the teachers are motivated to teach well, not just do well until they get to tenure status.

    Unions are NOT the problem. The unions in Europe are incredibly strong, probably much stronger than any teachers unions in the U.S. [] Why don't we put the blame on teacher training and certification instead. How else can you explain how 16% of U.S. science teachers are creationists? []

  • Re:Standards? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by uuddlrlrab ( 1617237 ) on Monday November 23, 2009 @09:09PM (#30209000)
    Exactly. I want to use myself as an anecdotal example. In no way, I'm sure, does this represent to experience of most people in terms of their education. Anyway, I grew up in the South, the so-called Bible-belt. For my first three years of school, I think, I went to a private school (that kindergarten, first and second), then public for the next one or two. Before fourth or fifth grade, can't remember which, my family moved to the Midwest, where I was in public through the rest of my schooling. Given this, I can definitely say there was a difference in the subjects taught, especially in things like history. I remember there being a lot taught about the Civil War in the South, particularly, Confederate Generals, whereas the remainder was a bit more well rounded, if not a bit overly focused on the Louisiana Purchase or Lewis and Clark.

    Education is not something that needs decentralization. That's exactly the sort of thing that makes it so much easier to push creationism into schools, or any other ridiculous agenda. What's next, let companies that make a big enough donation make suggestions for the curriculum? Or they'll just supply the teacher along with all 'educational materials?' Where would it stop? The Principal from Dow? Would some districts, given the right circumstances, start testing the waters to see if they can bring back segregation? If anything, schools need baseline standards enforced to ensure all children are getting a sufficient education, not indoctrination.
  • by Profane MuthaFucka ( 574406 ) <> on Monday November 23, 2009 @09:46PM (#30209254) Homepage Journal

    The outcome of homeschoolers is actually pretty poor. The stats presented by homeschoolers which supposedly indicate high rates of college attendance and performance conveniently leave out all the kids who never get into college, or try to get into college.

    It's called cherry picking.

  • by mi ( 197448 ) <> on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @12:07AM (#30210034) Homepage Journal

    If the problem was that national dept A, did not ensure that state depts b through z or whatever acted responsibly, what leads you to believe the state departments will act any more responsibly if the national one controlling everything and its corresponding laws go bye-bye?

    If/when a State's department screws up, only that State is affected, and the others learn, how not to do things. When the Federal department screws up, we are all affected and — having little to compare with — may not even know, how much better (or worse) the things could be.

    More importantly, most of the modern "national" Departments violate the Constitution [] — if not in letter, then in spirit — by usurping the powers not explicitly enumerated as Federal by the document. Lip-service to that is still paid by Congress — the Federal attempts to regulate the maximum speed nationally, for example, are hidden behind "federal highway money": States don't have to set certain speed limits, but will not get federal funds, unless they cap the speeds...

    I don't understand the modern Left's obsession with the all-knowing and benevolent Central government. What happened to "stick it to the man", etc? I'm not alone in my puzzlement [], BTW:

    ... somehow liberals have drifted into a strange servility toward big government, which they revere as a godlike foster father-mother who can dispense all bounty and magically heal all ills.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @12:19AM (#30210084)

    Is it indoctrination to show a child that 2 + 2 =4? If not then teaching evolution is fine, if so we have a real problem.

    If you think that 2+2=4 and the theory of evolution came about by equivalent means, or involve equivalent reasoning or process, then you do indeed have a real problem, and maybe that's why America has a shortage of able science and maths students as they keep mistaking the two for each other. As a hint, digging up a fossil is not evidence that 2+2=4, no matter how much it looks like your grandmother.

  • by laddiebuck ( 868690 ) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @12:24AM (#30210104)

    Ouch, can you say "out of touch" even more loudly?

  • by williamhb ( 758070 ) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @12:41AM (#30210174) Journal

    Having a wife who went through Catholic schools, and 2 kids who went to Catholic high school, I can say that it's at least partly because they don't confuse religion with education. There are religion classes, but they're NOT in the science classes. Plus before you get too upset about religion classes, in some other school they might be counted under ethics or some form of social studies. Neither of my kids nor my wife complained about the religion classes being some form of indoctrination. (My wife is a self-professed liberal, and proud of it.)

    I've always been a little concerned that the campaigners to keep religion and existential philosophy out of schools just haven't understood education -- you can't actually control what the children are thinking about or the questions they will internally ask. If you tell children about the evolutionary origins of humanity, and you think the only questions they will want to ask are little details about the scientific method, then you are ridiculously unrealistic. And if you think a policy of "no philosophical or religious discussion allowed" will stop children from thinking and internally asking those religious/existential questions, then frankly you are deluded. And if you wish to stop those questions from being discussed in class, then frankly you might as well put up a sign saying "only government pre-approved questions may be asked, and only government pre-approved answers will be given" -- the children will simply decide that you are unresponsive to their questions and needs, will disengage, and will cease looking to you for any answers. In short, you'll turn them off science in short order. The empirical evidence in Europe is that science applications to universities appear to have fallen as society and schools have become more secular. And the empirical evidence in Europe is that it seems to be the religious schools that produce the best science results -- and part of that is that they most certainly do make space in their schools (in RE classes) for discussion of what (let's face it) society has always called "the big questions" about the meaning of life. They do not expect their students to be little boxed automatons parroting the pre-approved questions; they expect them to think about everything, not just science.

  • by Kiyooka ( 738862 ) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @03:59AM (#30210922)

    Culture is both a cause and a consequence. Parents might magically wake up and start talking to their children about the wonders of science. Or they might not. But culture can also be another tool in the government toolkit (e.g. religion).

    Your fantasy of an evil controlling nanny state versus the rebellious freedom-fighter parents is just that: a fantasy. Sometimes the government is doing something that should be done, and sometimes not; sometimes parents are doing what should be done, and sometimes not. I think everyone recognizes by now that most people don't spend time exciting their kids about science, and so the ability to reason and think clearly is declining. Hence, it's forward-thinking for someone with the power and responsibility of the President of the US to increase science and mathematics education. I don't see how any clear-thinking person could be against this.

    Simplified models beget simplified thinking.

  • by Entropius ( 188861 ) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @05:18AM (#30211166)

    Not giving tax credits for having children would be a good start. Why reward the uneducated for breeding?

"So why don't you make like a tree, and get outta here." -- Biff in "Back to the Future"