In a speech to the National Academy of Sciences in 2009, President Obama said “the progress and prosperity of future generations will depend on what we do now to educate the next generation.” He called on the National Academies to reimagine science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education:
I want us all to think about new and creative ways to engage young people in science and engineering, whether it’s science festivals, robotics competitions, fairs that encourage young people to create and build and invent -- to be makers of things, not just consumers of things.
Obama has since launched the “Educate to Innovate” campaign to:
- Increase STEM literacy so that all students can learn deeply and think critically in science, math, engineering, and technology.
- Move American students from the middle of the pack to top in the next decade.
- Expand STEM education and career opportunities for underrepresented groups, including women and girls.
Earlier this month, CNN aired a special report, “Don’t Fail Me: Education in America.” CNN Anchor and Special Correspondent Soledad O’Brien interviewed Neil deGrasse Tyson, the director of the Hayden Planetarium.
Innovations and creativity in science, engineering, technology and math will be the drivers of tomorrow’s economy…And if you are not a participant at the frontier, you will trail behind it and possibly get left behind entirely.
Tyson observed that “math needs better marketing.”
Indeed, we must reimagine STEM education in order to stem the tide of joblessness in the African American community.
The Washington Post reports black joblessness is at a 40-year high:
The percentage of black men with jobs last month dropped to its lowest point in 40 years. The situation is worse for teens, worse again in the South and worst of all in late May as graduates swell the job market.
The result for black men ages 16 to 19 is a fate that now resembles a coin toss. Of those seeking work, 54.6 percent find jobs. More than 45 percent do not.
Consider: The academic achievement gap is well-documented. For background information, check out the report, “The Black-White Achievement Gap,” prepared by the Institute for Advanced Journalism Studies under the leadership of DeWayne Wickham.
Now consider this: The Pew Internet & American Life Project found there is no racial gap in the ownership of portable and console gaming devices. But few black students Americans know a black man, Jerry Lawson, developed the first video game console system. Or know that one of the top video game artists is a beautiful black woman, Lisette Titre.
To change the equation, education innovators should adopt culturally relevant web-based tools that will motivate black students and foster relationships with role models who can connect STEM literacy with their day-to-day lives and career opportunities.
Tyson told O’Brien:
The connection between STEM fields and the financial stability of the nation is what needs to be established. That connection somehow is broken and people don’t see it…You should value science, engineering, technology and math. If you do so, you get to innovate and invent new industries, new economies. If you invent new economies, everybody has jobs tomorrow.
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