Science, Technology Not Making the Grades in U.S

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), November 17, 2006 | Go to article overview

Science, Technology Not Making the Grades in U.S


Byline: Kara Rowland and Bryce Baschuk, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The United States may be the world's biggest consumer of technology, but when it comes to churning out scientists and engineers, American schools and families are not generating enough interest, educators say.

"We are behind the eight ball right now because other nations are competitive and pushing hard," said JoAnn DiGennaro, president of the Center for Excellence in Education, a McLean nonprofit that promotes science and technology education.

Why aren't American students pursuing degrees in science and technology?

"Science and engineering classes aren't pushed when you're young," said Roxana Yaghoubzadeh, a 21-year-old George Washington University (GWU) senior majoring in international business.

Research shows that students often decide their career paths long before they reach college, according to Robert H. Tai, an assistant professor at the University of Virginia Curry School of Education.

"There's a strong connection between children's visions of what they see themselves doing as adults and what they actually end up pursuing when they become adults," explained Mr. Tai, who earlier this year completed a study based on interviews with eighth-grade students about what job they would like to do when they get older.

Eighth-graders who said they wanted to have a science-related job were two to three times more likely to earn degrees in science.

"You look at what's going on and in a sense, it's not so much why college students are choosing their majors; it is really a question of how early are people starting to make these decisions about their lives and what it is they're interested in doing," Mr. Tai said.

Mara Geltzeiler, a 21-year-old international business major from New Jersey, bemoaned the time it takes to obtain a science degree.

"For careers in medicine and the sciences, there's such a long path and all the education doesn't pay off in the end," said the GWU senior.

Mr. Tai, a former high school physics teacher, said parents and teachers must give children a better idea of what scientists and engineers actually do for a living.

"Everyone knows what a wide receiver does for the Redskins. The kids know this, they see this on TV," he said. "Who's explaining to them what chemists do?"

Moreover, fewer children have family members working in science or engineering to explain it to them, noted Ms. …

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