Thomas Friedman, author of The World is Flat, recently interviewed Craig Barrett, the chief executive of Intel, which has invested millions of dollars in trying to improve the way science is taught in U.S. schools. In today’s flat world, Mr. Barrett said, Intel can be a totally successful company without ever hiring another American. That is not its desire or intention, he said, but the fact is that it can now hire the best brain talent “wherever it resides.”
If you look at where Intel is making its new engineering investments today, he said, it is in China, India, Russia, Poland and, to a lesser
extent, Malaysia and Israel. While cutting-edge talent is still being grown in America, he added, it’s not enough for Intel’s needs, and not enough is being done in U.S. public schools – not just to leave no child behind, but to make sure that the best students and teachers are nurtured and rewarded.
What’s the solution? Stop squeezing science of out of the elementary curriculum! Our young children today will never become the scientists of tomorrow if we continue to put science on the pack burner until we have time to teach it in class. Elementary teachers will tell you that unless they personally make a concentrated effort to integrate the teaching of science into the other disciplines, there’s just little time left at the end of the day to teach science. Hey, if you’re a parent reading this and your child is doing tons of science in class, consider yourself one of the lucky ones. As a science education consultant, I can assure you that science is slowly becoming an “extra-curricular” activity in elementary schools across the country. Many teachers are afraid to teach science because their training in science was nothing more than an outdated science methods class in college. And it’s tough to get a kid excited about science with a worksheet. It’s kind of like trying to teach a kid to play the piano by looking at pictures of pianos, reading stories about pianos and doing crossword puzzles about pianos. It just doesn’t work.
Let the words of Craig Barrett be a wake-up call to Superintendents and school district leaders across the country when it comes to training elementary teachers to get kids excited about learning science. Without this all important introduction to science in the elementary years, our children will be less than motivated to want to learn science in their middle and high school years.
So, the next time you drop the kids off at school, make a quick trip to the Principals office to learn more about his or her plan to integrate more science into the core the curriculum. What professional development training are the teachers receiving to become better science teachers? Is someone really looking out for the future of your children? Serious? You bet. Are you willing to risk your child’s future on the poor decisions of a few people today?