A Sputnik Moment for Education: Why Americans Should Support the $13 Billion Budget Request for STEM Education and a New Definition of the Well Rounded Student in the 21st Century
Jim Brazell is a technology forecaster, public speaker, and strategist who focuses on innovation and transformation. He will deliver the keynote address at the opening general session of the 2011 NCPN conference in Orlando, Florida, October 12–14. For more information, contact Jim at http://www.jimbrazell.com.
Hailed as this generations “Sputnik moment,” science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and research, receive $13 billion dollars in the President’s 2012 budget request. The voices calling for more rigorous STEM education in the United States range from the National Academies of Science to the board rooms of industry, the halls of Congress, and the nation’s military leadership.
Fueled by the accelerating rate of science and technology-based social and economic innovation, mounting complexity in the grand challenges of the 21st century and unsatisfactory U.S. benchmarks on international university (percent of STEM graduates) and K-12 education (math and science scores) performance, STEM is the investment President Obama is asking for among other funding trade-offs.
According to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), primary and secondary (K-12) STEM education includes mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics, computer science, engineering, environmental science, and geology. PCAST states that STEM education will help produce the capable and flexible workforce needed to compete in a global marketplace; however, its narrow classical education definition misses the mark in terms of how STEM fuels innovation.
In the United States, science and technology based innovation has attributed an overwhelming proportion of economic growth in our national economy and in per capita income since the beginning of the 20th century. The STEM workforce transcends the mere 5% of jobs usually categorized as “STEM” by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. For example, arts and middle-skill jobs are not typically counted as part of the STEM workforce:
(1) Of the two million U.S. Arts jobs requiring significant technology proficiency: 10% are architects; 11% are fine artists, art directors and animators; 7% are producers and directors; and 7% are photographers. The products of these disciplines represent 6.4% of the U.S. economy and over $126 billion annually in revenue from foreign trade.
(2) The Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University estimates that approximately seven million “middle skill” job openings will be filled by workers with an associate’s degree or occupational certificate between now and 2018. Students who obtain an engineering certificate from a technical or community college earn an average income of $46,596.00 and those who hold a certificate in a health related field earn a median salary of $46,000.00.
STEM, therefore, deserves special status in terms of how we define related workforce and educational practice. For example, given the tremendous global wealth created by cultural products (copyright industries such as games and movies), S. Korea’s Ministry of Education recently announced its innovation agenda will be buttressed by investments in TEAMS-STEM and the ARTS-not STEM.
U.S. Career and Technical Education (CTE) initiatives in Ohio, Texas, Florida, Maryland, and California are pursuing similar TEAMS initiatives through Career Pathways connecting STEM, Information Technology and Arts, Audio/Visual Technology and Communications industry clusters. Rather than simply reinforcing specialized STEM disciplines or networks among STEM disciplines, CTE is working to anticipate emerging technologies and markets while creating new methods of educational innovation.
In these U.S. vocational TEAMS programs connect appropriate curricula with the interests of young people to deliver a pipeline of simulation and video game artists, animators and programmers to higher education and to industries ranging from the defense department to Disney. Similar initiatives are supported by the National Science Foundations Advanced Technology Education program for community colleges and high schools ranging from optics and photonics to space technology redefining our concept of the shop class from wood working to high technology.
In his State of the Union, President Obama declared that we will “out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.” These achievements all hinge on education and our ability to recognize that the 21st century requires a unification of the worlds of academics, vocational education, the arts and student leadership.
Albert Einstein once said, “You cannot solve a problem from the same consciousness that created it. You must learn to see the world anew.” In the context of STEM and what is next in American education, Career and Technical Education (CTE) defines a new approach to what constitutes a well rounded student in the 21stcentury.
The President’s STEM agenda and CTE deserve the support of all Americans who want a fair and viable economic future for their children and grand children. The way ahead is for us to support a uniquely American brand of educational innovation representative of what has made us a global nation-diversity.
About the Authors
Dr. Francis X. Kane (Col., USAF, retired) was recognized on March 2, 2010 by the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Command as a “Space Pioneer” responsible for the concept of the Global Positioning System (GPS) and technology forecasting following the launch of Sputnik I.
Jim Brazell is a technology forecaster and educational innovation strategist working with Dr. Kane to make it possible for the first person to walk on Mars to be from San Antonio, TX.