I spent Saturday in New York City, where the World Science Festival was in full swing.
I had planned to attend the panel discussion, “Rhythms on the Brain: Music, Memory, and Emotion,” to hear the scientific explanation of why we sing the blues. With black male joblessness at 17.5 percent and black teen unemployment at 40.7 percent, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know why black folks sing the blues.
Instead, I took the ferry to Governors Island to explore the wonders of science with the next generation of inventors and innovators. As I walked around Governors Island, it was a pleasure to see the delight on their faces.
The World Science Festival is “designed to make the esoteric understandable and the familiar fascinating.” It is undeniable that African American children are fascinated with the esoteric. But that fascination fades by middle school. So educators, policymakers and advocates must reimagine STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) to restore its cool factor.
The Internet Generation is familiar with GoDaddy.com from its ubiquitous Super Bowl ads. It would be cool if students knew Go Daddy’s daddy is a black man, Emmit McHenry, the founder of Network Solutions, the go-to website for domain name registration in the 1990s.
Time magazine recently asked: The Future of Innovation: Can America Keep Pace?
We need innovation urgently. But if we are to get the U.S. back to work, we need perhaps even more urgently to rebuild American education, reform our training system, revive high-end manufacturing, focus on new growth industries and rebuild our infrastructure. In fact, finding new ways to do these old tasks might be the greatest and most important innovation of all.
Indeed, throwing money at the problem is not the solution. Education spending has doubled in the last decade. Meanwhile, the United States has fallen to 17th in science literacy and 25th in math literacy.
Studies show there is a link between performance on math and science assessment tests and economic growth. Given the changing demographics, it is an economic imperative that we encourage interest in STEM education among underrepresented students.