Can Obama make science cool?

On Monday, I wrote about the decline of science education in the US, as well the rise of "unscience" and our growing struggle to compete with China in terms of real innovation. As if he wanted to hand me the perfect segue, President Obama announced the administration's Educate to Innovate program.

On Monday, I wrote about the decline of science education in the US, as well the rise of "unscience" and our growing struggle to compete with China in terms of real innovation. As if he wanted to hand me the perfect segue, President Obama announced the administration's Educate to Innovate program, encompassing everything from increased funding to public-private partnerships to an annual White House Science fair.

The President's announcement is available here and video of the speech is embedded below.

The key idea, though? Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education in this country is hurting for many reasons. Regardless of the reasons, it's time to change this and "...show young people how cool science can be." The President also said something that hopefully we all know:

...because a great teacher is the single most important factor in a great education, we're asking states to focus on teacher effectiveness [through the Race to the Top initiative] and to make it possible for professionals -- like many of the people in this room -- to bring their experience and enthusiasm into the classroom.

Will anything actually come of this rhetoric? I sure hope so. For now, the program involves some significant partnerships (quoted below), but I'll be watching for real action and funding to trickle down to schools who manage to really address the STEM deficiencies the President outlined. Here are the initial partnerships announced Monday:

  • Time-Warner Cable, Discovery Communications, Sesame Street, and other partners will get the message to kids and students about the wonder of invention and discovery.
  • National Lab Day will help build communities of support around teachers across the country, culminating in a day of civic participation.
  • National STEM design competitions will develop game options to engage kids in scientific inquiry and challenging designs.
  • Five leading business and thought leaders (Sally Ride, Craig Barrett, Ursula Burns, Glen Britt, and Antonio Perez) will head an effort to increase private and philanthropic involvement in support of STEM teaching and learning.