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I Believe the Children Are The Future « The NASA Lady

I Believe the Children Are The Future

Aug 19, 2012   //   by pgreyer   //   Latest Buzz  //  No Comments

The New Face of EducationMost of the posts that appear on this site are either thoughts, beliefs, or other things that come from my mind or things that I encounter/happen to be a part of my life. This post came my way via Facebook and as I read it I could not only agree with Pete Sheehan.

I’ve experienced cuts to many of the programs I worked in or managed but when one door closes it takes creativity and the desire to keep the opportunity available for the children. To me, the closing of science and technology programs in my district sends the message that the powers that be, regardless if the decision is made at the local, district, or state level, don’t want our children to have access these academic skills or career options which as the image shows will keep them unaware of these skills or careers.

This image caught my eye and in too many ways it does seem to echo the state of STEM programs in many of our schools. Yes, Knowledge is power but ignorance is bliss. Ignorant in the Webster definition meaning unaware. Keep the knowledge from the masses and they won’t have a clue. Share it with a select group however, and they will be in the position of power. You can believe they aren’t cutting science and technology at many private schools or even public schools where parents, communities, and even teachers are finding funding to have solid STEM education in their schools.

There was a time when I and the populations I work with were intentionally kept from attaining knowledge. If children become knowledgeable then as they grow up they will seek innovative ways to change the world and that’s the frightening or bad aspect which is the most saddening part of the science and technology funding cuts. Lastly, if we don’t prepare them with the knowledge because we don’t require them to be prepared as students then we won’t prepare them to work in STEM careers. Sheehan asks, “Who will run the coal plants or energy plants of the future if we don’t prepare young people today?”

That’s a good question. Children are our future and if we listen to the words of the song we should teach them well and let them lead the way. The conversation I don’t believe people are having is what future are we preparing them to lead or better yet, are we preparing them for being contributory, responsible adults who will be able to step in our shoes and keep moving society forward?

Education is in crisis, violence in our communities continues, and in the case of my city, is escalating. We aren’t talking about strengthening academics or addressing the social/emotional needs of so many of our students and since these are the issues our current school leaders and politicians are focusing on, finding ways to increase, not cut, science and technology programs is a mere aside.

Sheehan raises some good points in his article which includes asking if the future of our society will be run by a generation of illiterates who will have no technical knowledge. Hmmmmm, makes one stop and think. It touched me deep enough that I decided to share it here on my site. You can read Sheehan’s article, that appeared in The Journal on August 18 and add your comments on The Journal’s site. I would be interested in hearing what others think about his assessment of the state of science and education funding by commenting here as well.

I’m with him in asking seriously, “What the hell is wrong with these people?”

Funding science and education
Science and Technology
August 18, 2012 – Pete Sheehan

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There was an article in the news recently about plans to cut funding for a number of observatories and research centers, including the NRAO in Green Bank, West Virginia, where a friend of mine was recently doing an internship.
When I read about plans to cut funding for science and education (which is frequently), I have to ask a question:

What the hell is wrong with you people?

“Well they haven’t shown any results, we have more important things to spend money on.”

and

“The education system wastes tons of money. We have more important things to spend money on!”

No. No, we do not have more important things to spend money on. Nothing could possibly be more important than science and education. It actually pains me to say it, science advocate that I am, but education is the most important, with science being a second.

There could not possibly be anything more important than ensuring the next generation has the knowledge to take over running the world. Putting a bunch of funding into coal mining or whatever so we have enough fuel to run things doesn’t help us if the next generation is a bunch of illiterates who can’t run a coal processing plant. This isn’t an argument, it is an objective fact. If you think the world continuing to run after we pass on matters – which, unless you’re a hell of a nihilist, you pretty much have to – then absolutely nothing is more important than making sure the next generation is prepared, by educating them.

The only situation I can imagine that would supersede education funding would be if the world was LITERALLY on the brink of disaster. Having a generation of idiots is moderately better than the world descending into chaos or blowing up or what have you.

But aside from that, no, education should be our top priority. It isn’t throwing money away, it is investing in the future. Passing on our knowledge to the next generation is what allows society to flourish. The phrase “We stand on the shoulders of giants” sums it up nicely. No matter how clever a scientist might be, we are NOTHING without the cumulative knowledge of those who came before us. The development of sophisticated language, and, eventually, record-keeping techniques is what made humans dominant on Earth.

It might be a chimpanzee figured out how to make a bow and arrow at one point, but lacking a formal language, he couldn’t very well pass on the information very well, could he? That idea died with him. Or maybe chimps do have a formal language, I don’t know. Its an example.

Each new generation of creators doesn’t have to start over from scratch, we work with all the knowledge and technology of those who came before us, from the first simple tools of our prehuman ancestors, to the more sophisticated techniques of the egyptians, right up to the industrial revolution. Without these forefathers, we wouldn’t be at this point, where new discoveries involve absurdly sophisticated machines like the Large Hadron Collider, rather than the ease of just thinking up new ideas like our forefathers might have enjoyed. (I have often reflected it would have been much easier to be an inventor a hundred years ago or so. There weren’t so many ideas already taken.)

Speaking of inventing, that brings me to the next most important object of funding: Science.

NASA brought us televisions when they had to develop communication systems for space missions. This wasn’t their goal, it was a side benefit that benefitted all of society. Countless scientific discoveries happen independent of the actual goal of a project, and there is absolutely no way of predicting what benefits might be gained from a project (not to mention the direct benefits gained from the actual goal of a project). It is irresponsible, and downright IMMORAL to cut science funding.

The GPS devices that have become so common nowadays actually take advantage of part of Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity to function. He thought of the idea on his own (supposedly), but countless hours of research and documentation went into proving it, and eventually taking advantage of it.

Where would we be if his funding had been cut because oh, he hasn’t put out anything useful in a few years? Who needs science funding, all they do is piddle around in labs all day.

I’ll tell you where we would be, we’d be got-dang LOST because we wouldn’t have a GPS.

The problem is, the people who decide whether funding goes to science often don’t UNDERSTAND the things they are choosing not to fund. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – and you can call me elitist if you wish – nonscientists aren’t qualified to even comment on high-level scientific endeavors, let alone decide if they should be funded or not.

The people in charge of these things talk like the scientists want funding for these projects for selfish reasons, but there is no nobler endeavor than a scientific one. By definition, they expand the sum of human knowledge.

And you know what? Knowledge is all we, as a people, have.

Sure, there’s art, religion, music, what have you, but if you look at human history, the quality of these things fluctuate, the cultural output of a people varies wildly.

But you know what has had a direct growth throughout all of human existence (well, except during the Dark Ages, but they’re called dark for a reason.)? Knowledge. Science. Technology. And that has a direct correlation with quality of life, length of life, and what we can DO with our lives. Without science, our society would be nothing. We’d be animals. In fact, we wouldn’t have lasted at all. Humans are useless without science, the fundamental ability to make tools – technology – is the only advantage we have over other creatures, and its the only reason the first primate to develop a bigger brain rather than bigger muscles didn’t get wiped out immediately by a bigger, stronger creature.

The reason science has direct growth throughout human history (exponential growth, in fact. See the Law of Accelerating Returns and works by Ray Kurzweil) is that it, unlike other factors of human culture which fluctuate, is objective. Art, music, etc are all subjective, but science is empirical. There are a set of objective, key, logical facts about which there is no arguing. Logic is the basis of science, making empirical observations which can be used to be implemented with technology.

A caveman finds a stick with a sharp, broken end.

“Oh, this stabs into things easier than a blunt stick. I can use this to kill things better.”

“Oh, but it breaks easily. Its only good for one stab. But if I break another stick, I can make another one!”

“Its becoming hard to keep finding good sticks for this. Hm, this rock is much harder than wood, and the broken edge is even sharper. It’ll last much longer. I’ll take this thin vine and use it to secure the rock to the stick!”

The invention of the spear.

THAT is humanity. That’s all we are, and its all we’re good for. The continuing progress of technology allows us to get better and better at surviving (though this long progressed past getting better at killing things so we can eat their meats). An outlying evolutionary trend happened to work extraordinarily well, and had no end in sight for how far it can progress.

(Some view the growth of technology as us taking over where evolution left off. We used to evolve biologically, but now our culture – our species, in fact – evolves technologically.)

So when people suggest that the growth of science isn’t important and doesn’t merit funding, it disgusts me. Science is the ONLY thing we’re good for, it is the reason for our existence, and it is objectively THE greater good of humanity. But instead they want to give more money to politicians and oil barons.

What the hell is wrong with you people?

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