Technological Innovation is Our Best and Final Hope for Saving High Quality Math and Science Education

By 12/08/2009

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More than half (52%) of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are immigrants, wrote Paul Kedrosky and Brad Feld in a Wall Street Journal editorial last Wednesday. Kedrosky and Feld cite this fact to argue that visas for talented foreigners are desperately needed to sustain the growth sectors in the American economy.

Their point is well taken, but the fix is only short term, as the foreign entrepreneurs of the future will decide that they can make just as much money in their home countries.

The United States needs to begin growing its own creative talent by educating the best of our young people in  science, math, and cognitive science skills from an early age. Nothing is more tragic than the virtual abdication by the American high school of its responsibility for the mathematical and scientific education of the next generation, leaving  U. S. 15-year-olds below the industrial world average on math and science tests.

Given the inability of schools to attract quality math and science teachers, we will have to look to Silicon Valley, Seattle, Cambridge, and other technological hot spots for an answer.  Fortunately, the big guns are already beginning to search for ammunition that will enable them to transform high school education by offering young people top-notch mathematical and scientific education online.  When that comes to fruition—and it could happen more quickly than anyone expects–the best and the brightest students won’t need to worry about the dull, poorly educated science teacher in their high school classrooms; they will be able to access high quality instruction directly from the world’s most talented educators.

We doubt that school districts will be able to blockade the migration of talented students to online education.  Powerful forces on the other side—sophisticated parents, universities, and voices from the world of industry—will have the wherewithal to respond.

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