Have you ever found a book that you could not put down? Recently I have been reading the book Unleashing the Second American Century by Joel Kurtzman. The book discusses four forces of economic dominance for the United States which includes training in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects. In 262 pages, Kurtzman dispels the rumors and discussions about America’s decline as being dead wrong. He states our best days are ahead of us. This is good and refreshing news.
He recognizes that some students are doing poorly in school and are shying away from STEM subjects. We need educated people if the U.S. wants to continue to be the dominant economic power. There has to be a transformation of sorts, where those educated in STEM disciplines continue to innovate, improve productivity, and increase efficiency. This affects the auto industry, health care, information technology, engineering, and medicine to mention a few. According to the Department of Commerce, STEM-based jobs are forecasted to grow over 17 percent between 2008 and 2018. For non-STEM jobs the Department of Commerce predicted a growth rate of 9.8 percent over the same time frame.
As a nation we should view education as an investment, not as a cost. Kurtzman gives an example about Jonas Salk who discovered the first polio vaccine. In 1952, before the vaccine was approved and used, over 58,00 people (mostly children) were consumed by the disease in the U.S. alone. Over 3,000 died and 21,000 were disabled. How do YOU put a value on Dr. Salk’s medical education? Is it a cost or an investment? I submit that any education in STEM subjects is an investment because the payback is so large in lives being saved, contributions to society, and contributions to the economy. Kurtzman asks a final question and follows it quickly with an answer – what is the payoff from investing in education? It is measured in everything we do.
Once again, I’d like to make passionate plea that if your son or daughter has shown a tendency toward STEM subjects, consider enrolling them in classes or camps that allow them to dream, learn, experiment, and enjoy various technologies. And when it comes time for them to pick a college encourage them to consider a STEM major. Sure, it will not be an easy major; it might be hard having to study when the rest of their friends want to play Ultimate Frisbee, however, it will be rewarding beyond their imagination. Great things come to those who prepare and parents can be the ones to help them prepare.
Quote for the Day: “If there are things you don’t like in the world you grew up in, make your own life different.” — Dave Thomas