State Of The Union 2011

Although I didn’t listen to Obama’s “state of the union” address, I happened upon the transcript and started flipping through it. There’s a lot of encouraging stuff about science and math education.

For example, he says

over the next 10 years, with so many baby boomers retiring from our classrooms, we want to prepare 100,000 new teachers in the fields of science and technology and engineering and math

then he encourages young people to seriously consider teaching as a career choice. This is after pointing out that

  • Developing countries, such as China, have been pushing science and math education forwards for years, and this is showing fruit already
  • The United States is slipping behind other developed countries in how well students know science and math

He also brought to the audience’s mind another time when the United States was slipping behind, and a president issued a challenge to the country to move ahead – the space race. Half a century ago, the Soviets beat America into space. The president at the time issued a challenge – “let’s beat them to the moon”. The challenge was taken up and won. Obama put it like this

The science wasn’t even there yet.  NASA didn’t exist.  But after investing in better research and education, we didn’t just surpass the Soviets; we unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs. This is our generation’s Sputnik moment.  Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven’t seen since the height of the Space Race.  And in a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal.

Admittedly, Obama is not in the same political party that now controls congress, but this sounds like good news for education, educators and the future of the United States. Apparently, the strongest emphases will aimed at biotechnology, information technology and alternatives to fossil fuels.

For teachers in the US, keep an eye out for new programs that can help you. And don’t forget to take advantage of existing programs! For teachers elsewhere, let’s also take heart that science and math education is being emphasised by people in powerful places!