“Confronting a Third Crisis in U.S. Science Education” by Alexandra Witze

The article under consideration presents the interview with James Gates Jr. of the University of Maryland in College Park who serves on the Board of Trustees of Society for Science & the Public. It highlights the problems US science education faces as it turns out not for the first time in the history of its development. The article reveals the risks and opportunities of the science education with the regard to the historic excurse.

Worth of paying attention is the opening part of the interview when James Gates Jr. provides the insight in the value of science training for the country’s well-being and economic prosperity. As it was noted, the world is “moving into a time in the development of the world economy when innovation and the formation of novel approaches will clearly come from countries best situated to create a population that can innovate in science and technology” (Witze, 2010, p. 32). The statistic is, however, not in favour of the US – the country shows the 24th or 25th result on the international arena, regarding science and technology academic performance.

The interview touches the effectiveness of the incentives and initiatives by Obama administration targeted at supporting science education in the States. However, the idea offered by James Gates Jr. focuses on the sustainability of financial support and commitment of the kind in light of the economic constraints the country has to deal with.

The most interesting and precious part of the article traces back the history of the American STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] education, providing excursus back in times of the previous crises in the field. The first problems were looming during World War II. The victory of the Allies in the war was a result of the science and technology achievements that “United States innovated at a level far beyond its competition” (Witze, 2010, p. 32). The second challenge was at the times of Cold War and concerned mainly armament drive and space exploration. The launch of Sputnik instigated American NASA establishing and first-man-on-the-moon project. The present, third crisis has to challenge USA science education and research to move in the direction of intensive technological innovations.

The posing of the crisis problem is not the final accord of the article while James Gates Jr. also offers the solutions of the issue. He argues in favour of establishing structures and institutions that will get the US inside the “innovation cycle” in education in the way that the country have in scientific research. The interview stresses the importance of the new approach in science education. If traditional program teaches science facts, new system is going to instruct and train how to operate the facts in order to propel innovation breakthrough and ensure the US position as scientific and thus economic strength on the global arena. As Gates Jr. puts it together: “[w]hat’s going to be important is the capability of people to marshal those facts to solve the kinds of problems they’re engaged in” …
Posted by: Shaquana Strahl

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