President Obama's State of the Union 2011

About the first thirty minutes of President Obama’s State of the Union Speech tonight was dedicated to innovation, education, and infrastructure.

I don’t take lightly how the president interwove these themes with education and our schools.  I especially noted this reference to the teaching of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM):  “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.”

I admire the goal; it’s a very laudable one. However, so many people do not yet realize the power of the two middle parts of the STEM acronym and the value added to a student’s experience when they study them along with mathematics and science.  Though they are hard to find and it may not be true in every school, most schools math and science departments are staffed with people that are very capable of teaching those subjects. What we do not have is enough people to teach our students about technology, engineering, and ingenuity.

Also prominent in this first segment of the speech were themes of entrepreneurship, manufacturing, how technology has revolutionized our lives, global competition, creativity and imagination, clean energy, infrastructure, and invention.  Our students need to know about these things too, but there is really no time left in their math and science classes to learn something meaningful about these other important topics.

The president also made reference to Sputnik and how it led us to transform our education system and research and development.

If we’re going to reinvent ourselves and reinvent our nation, we cannot do it with the same education system that came out of the post-Sputnik era.  While giving our kids more experiences in learning math and science were great things to come out of that era, we need to build on that for the future. Our education system needs more in the way of instruction in Technology and Engineering, which is core to developing ingenuity of our young people.

Here where I live in New Jersey, we have set a strong foundation for these studies.  We’ve also engaged engineers, architects, industrial designers, and other professionals and showed them a path to sharing their knowledge and experience with children. Let’s build on that and truly reinvent education with study of Technology and Engineering at the core.


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