Magazine article Phi Kappa Phi Forum

A Call for STP: Science, Technology, and Politics

Magazine article Phi Kappa Phi Forum

A Call for STP: Science, Technology, and Politics

Article excerpt

Today there is cause for concern about the stability and strength of our scientific and technological workforce. Maintaining a strong and creative scientific and technical capability is one of the grand challenges for the twenty-first century, and it calls for a multifaceted solution. First, we need to improve the quality and increase the number of university graduates in science and mathematics. Second, we must improve the quality and numbers of science and mathematics teachers needed to train and nurture potential scientists and mathematicians. These first two challenges can be addressed not only by academic institutions, but also by individuals.

Dean L. Kamen, the American entrepreneur and inventor perhaps most well-known as the developer of the Segway--the electric, self-balancing human transporter--is also the founder of FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a nonprofit public charity that aims "to inspire young people's interest and participation in science and technology" (http://www.usfirst.org/). He is an excellent example of a passionate advocate for science and technology who describes his vision as "to create a world where science and technology are celebrated ... where young people dream of becoming science and technology heroes." And, in my humble opinion, I would add to the twenty-first century challenges, to combat both Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) illiteracy and political ambivalence in the voting electorate, especially when it concerns science and environmental policy, in the United States.

The opportunity exists for persons having formal knowledge of science to influence how decisions about the uses of science and/or technology are made. Many current science, mathematics, and technology issues directly relate to society and are relevant to the politics of the 2008 national election. Scientists and nonscientists passionate about science issues should strive to foster a science-literate citizenship. Even more, any of us as teachers, mentors, role models, or parents should regard ourselves as environmental educators. Have we taken it upon ourselves to have a serious discussion with the younger generation regarding solutions for the climate crisis, the need to exercise our right to vote, or sorting household trash from what is recyclable? These issues involve critical choices with not only serious, but irreversible, consequences.

A generation ago, during the civil rights movement, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote "Life's most urgent question is: What are you doing for others?" Today our generation can pose the same question. Climate change and sustainable development are more than politically hot science topics. Rather, they are the problems we all are waking up to face today and will continue to face tomorrow. I charge each of us to ask, what are we doing to address these common problems for humankind? Don't have the time in your schedules? Don't know where to begin on such a global issue? What can only one person possibly do? Jump in! Search the Web for local, regional, and national organizations and movements. Find out what others have started that best fits your interests and level of willingness and get involved. One fine example is Focus the Nation. …

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