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Americans are behind other countries when it comes to knowledge about science, technology, engineering and math. How do we change that?

Americans lack critical thinking skills in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math, If there were an Xproze for the best idea to change that, what would you submit?

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    Jan 31 2014: I think that people use the word/term Education as if it is a "thing" for solving all problems.

    Here in America we are losing precious meaningful traditions - we do not know how to produce sound local goods independently from controlling industries. Craftsmanship and skills are very rare... but these are the very foundation of sustainability.

    We have No responsibility for WHAT WE SERVE OR PRODUCE. Everyone wants to play computers knowing nothing about life - absolutely depending on colossal manufacturers. The crazy giants grow and blow up effecting everyone, controling our jobs, "needs", health, education, government and the whole mentality.

    Europeans keep saving their wonderful traditional Small businesses, and make their living much more meaningful.

    Education is a PROCESS and the only education that gives one power is when one learns how to produce something valuable and meaningful, whether it is traditional or innovative, scientific or artistic. This knowledge about real skills can work fantastically well and benefit every local community, economy and the whole country.

    Whether educated or not , Can we stop serving brainless gigantic systems, supporting their "standard" mass-production that fits no one but a non-existing collective prototype?
  • Jan 31 2014: Start using attraction rather that force or threats.
  • Jan 29 2014: The issue is a deep seated cultural problem present in most of the western world and certain other parts of the world, not just in the states.

    There is not enough social norms and pressure on students to excel at the technical disciplines; their place in society just isn't prestigious enough. People, and especially children, are busy idolizing everything from musicians to actors to athletes to reality TV characters. Note that scientists, engineers and what not aren't on the list.

    Another problem is actually the very potential of the technical disciplines, or more precisely their effect on the educational system. A talented person with a penchant for say, history or literature often finds himself in a teaching job, because there is, practically speaking, nowhere else to make use of those subjects to earn a living.
    A talented person whose thing is say, math or physics on the other hand? Why on earth would he be teaching high school when he can make four times the money as an engineer or programmer? Therefore, there is a shortage of skilled teachers as well, and the educational system as a whole tends to be run by humanists, many of whom probably failed high school math and have a burning hatred for the subject ever since.
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    Jan 29 2014: We have to break the unionized monopoly of the teacher's unions, Arlen. We can talk all day long about education reform, but until the core problem is addressed, very little can change.
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    Feb 4 2014: One useful strategy is to cultivate in children throughout their early education and beyond a taste for challenge and an inclination to persist. These traits are imperative for achieving excellence in math and science. Another important strategy to counter a frequent anti-intellectual drift in popular culture is to make thinking and learning a value in the cohort, regardless of what kids may hear in the culture around them that all too often scorns scholarship. Another is to do a better job of making sure people who actually understand math and science teach kids in those subjects in grades 1-8. Kids too often get off track early, accepting misconceptions that are hard to reverse at the point of schooling when students tend to get their first teachers who are specialists in these areas. Another useful approach is to situate learning in these areas in a context to which kids can immediately connect through subjects that fascinate them. It is not difficult to find such connections. Mathematics has a distinct game-like/puzzle-like aspect. Science, particularly hands on science, is naturally interesting as well. Kids are innately inquisitive about "what happens if...?" Some students need more individual attention than others, and while everyone needs review and practice, some will need more than others. This aspect needs to be customized for best effect.

    It's actually not rocket science.
  • Feb 2 2014: Reverse inequality through a 1950s style tax code.

    One of the largest factors effecting performance in school is the socio-economic situation of the parents.

    Reduce the size of the disaffected population, and you will have a much greater impact that anything that can be done within the school system.

    That said, I wish we would spend much more time teaching children how to think rather than teaching them what to think.

    In math, we should start with the word problems. In science we should teach how we learned things. In English we should teach the etymology of words.
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      Feb 3 2014: "In math, we should start with the word problems. In science we should teach how we learned things. In English we should teach the etymology of words."

      Right to the point! We have logical mistakes in basic math and language that make some of the intuitive young students very confused and they shy to ask questions. Though we cannot offer any better education yet the teachers must be at least aware of the problems in given knowledge.

      "That said, I wish we would spend much more time teaching children HOW to think rather than teaching them what to think." I could not say this better!

      The idiotic most popular formula: education=good income, Nothing can express more clearly our vulgar arrogant mentality.
      • Feb 3 2014: I also think there are serious problems with how we break up learning into subjects.

        Often the students begin to think the goal is just to complete this class. Take algebra, brain dump that because now I'm in geometry.... Learn some physics, brain dump that because now I'm biology.

        Why even bother to teach the stuff if they are just going to brain dump most of it at the end of the semester... or now... the moment the standardized test is taken?
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          Feb 3 2014: Great comment! "we break up learning into subjects. " I think that we do not understand the Real reason why we separate everything we do. Seems that one believes it is easier to Control our activities and responsibilities that way. Scientific friends I know are constantly stumbling, knowing so little about what is happening in other fields.

          I think it has to be some wise introduction/course to every subject describing its methods, practical usefulness, as well as its limitations. But the most important introduction that we are missing is about our unique human mentalty and our peculiar perceptions..
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    Lejan .

    • +1
    Feb 2 2014: one equation at a time ...
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    Jan 29 2014: I would have stopped after "lacking critical thinking skills"
    I have no idea how to better STEM education. But, then I look at other numbers that aren't made obvious, I have to stop and think. We have tens of millions of children in schools. Most schools seem to address their success in the number of students that go on to college. It would appear that students who do not go to college are reducing the achievement numbers. When you look at STEM scores only on those that go to college. America is not doing so bad.
    I don't see everyone going to college. There are those who could and should. What I would like to see is that every student receive sufficient education to be a functional adult. Some may want to go to college, some may want to go to a trade school. Both are valid life choices..
    I see the goal of public schools to be that they graduated 100% of their students as functional adults, whether the student goes to college or trade school or becomes an associate at the local WalMart.
    I hold that there is no undignified work, only undignified people.
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    Jan 29 2014: Popular junk "sciences" are overwhelming our US education, these get on TV and into workshops - all this works as entertainment to excite ignorant or naive minds. The teachers cannot give articulate answers to their curious students but only say what they are tamed to say.
  • Feb 4 2014: I had to look up a word that I was not familiar with "etymology" and when I did it pulled every thing you said together quite well. Greek word is (etymon), = literal sense of a word. If I ruled the school world for a day I would initiate multiple classes on learning which would include all of the unique varieties out there, with the hopes that one style would work for one person and possibly another method for another child. Learning is such a unique process and we all have to find our path, if this is accomplished I would hope that our interest in life would expand and that society could turn in a more positive direction.
    Thanks for your insightful view and I hope that you are a teacher of one sort or another
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    Feb 4 2014: "I wish we would spend much more time teaching children how to think rather than teaching them what to think.

    In math, we should start with the word problems. In science we should teach how we learned things. In English we should teach the etymology of words."

    I'm so Impressed with what Darrell Shimel said that I dare to re-publish it here. Hope he is ok with this..

    So much wisdom in these short sentences. And we all have so much work to do in this direction, creating a true progress.
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    Feb 4 2014: I think that our imagination becomes tamed and terribly limited as we grow up getting "educated", we lose our intuition and our own, open sense of wonder.

    It happens while we are told in schools about our scientific "progress" we shall admire,
    and when we watch TV Junk sciences “educational” programs, which are loudly prevailing even over common sense.

    The majority among scientific writers and teachers are quite illiterate regarding the Original thoughts and discoveries in sciences and philosophy, and this explains why they very poorly understand what they are teaching or describing.

    Sciences promote tons of new words and terminology, made-up images and graphics, just like any successful businesses. For instance a popular scientific presentation of a brain photo image has a fancy protuberant around it. The shiny protuberant, however, has rendered by a hired artist. We see No word explaining that those images are fantascies produced by an excited neuroscientist, and then “edited” by an artist.

    One makes very little sense or no sense when he/she is not able to look around, beyond his/her limited field, and compare.. .

    When we are in wilderness we do not need to look for any excitement - we are already overwhelmed.. we are in direct interactions with life and its endless vitality. Something very drastically important is missing in our artificial lifestyle and very limited mentality.
  • Feb 3 2014: I have found that people are driven by the reward system.

    1. Teachers should be rewarded by how well their students do (jobs, not just college - many great jobs without college) from a given base.

    2. It can be by percentage and in certain school districts, it could be 90% as the base or 20% as the base.

    That would be the start and also need to have the ability to remove bad teachers based upon these results.

    The problem is, I believe, the concentration should be from pre-k to 5. I would actually cut some funding from high school. If the students are ready, have them go to junior college for college credit rather than ap courses.

    As a side note, the testing we are doing today really does not tell us as much as some people seem to think.
  • Feb 2 2014: Most important -- Clean House !!!
    It is the Education System that has failed, it makes sense to replace the Educators.
    No need to replace the Janitors, or Administrative Staff.
    Just replace those ineffectual supervisors. -- Clean house, Grade School, High School, College, and
    University Corporate Leadership. Force them to Guarantee Education, and to Provide Graduates with
    Career Jobs.

    Take away their Limited Liability Protections. We do not need highly paid but ineffectual Superintendents,
    Deans, Principals, Professors, Teachers, and Coaches.

    The Student Body has been forgotten, in favor of the almighty $$$ Dollar.
    Inexperienced student-teachers are the new Professors with Tenure as a "time-in-grade" carrot to feed on.
    We are left with Graduate Students being the statistics of our declining Educational System.

    When student ball players need "Instant Replay" to determine the success of a catch or goal,
    something is wrong. Past days of Honor and Truth are no more.

    40-50 years ago, a decline in our Educational System was noticed, but not much done about it.
    Our nation was shocked to learn West Point Cadets had been caught in mass Cheating on Exams.
    Today, we have Politicians in Washington DC, who lie to us about their continuous wars, torture practices,
    and the killing and maiming of innocent men, women, and wee babes.
  • Feb 2 2014: My solution is create community based STEM cells providing free on line education, memtors, networks and experiential learning
  • Feb 2 2014: I meant X Prize. Sorry for the typo
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    Feb 2 2014: Hello Arlen,
    I am trying to understand your question, and having a little difficulty.

    You ask..." If there were an Xproze for the best idea to change... what would you submit?"
    I am not familiar with the term "Xproze", so I looked it up, and what I found, is that it is a group (entertainers?), it is a foundation of some sort, etc. I cannot figure out how it fits with your question.

    I skimmed through the conversation, and notice that you are going back to the top of the page with your responses, so the conversation gets kind of disconnected....cannot tell who you are responding to, so that does not provide information.

    You can reply directly to a comment with the "reply" feature in the upper right of a comment, and when you use that option, the person you are replying to gets a notice that you have responded to their comment. If you insist on going back to the top of the page, it might help to use the name of the person you are responding to, and this practice is confusing.

    All that being said, America was AHEAD with scientific exploration and technology at one time, and we got lazy! I do not agree that Americans lack critical thinking skills in any subject, however, we seem to have stopped applying critical thinking skills in some areas. An idea to change that dynamic may be to stop being lazy with a sense of more aware and mindful:>)
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      Feb 2 2014: You raise an issue that I have long considered without coming to a firm conclusion. I doubt that critical thinking skills in America or elsewhere are as soft as they may sometimes appear or that one can deduce people have not learned to think critically in their schooling. Rather I think people sometimes choose not to apply the critical thinking of which they are capable in some areas or not to examine the data before them with a critical eye.
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        Feb 4 2014: I agree Fritzie, and my simple use of the word lazy, includes, as the definition states...
        "resistant to work, or exertion, disposed to idleness, slow-moving, sluggish, conducive to idleness, indolence".

        I's not rocket science:>)
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    Feb 2 2014: MESSAGE TO POSTERITY, 1936

    Dear Posterity
    If you have not become more just, more peaceful
    and generally more rational than we are(or were)-- why then, the Devil take
  • Jan 31 2014: Examples ?
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      Feb 2 2014: who was this directed to?

      Will you submit a summary. What is your solution? Do you think that schools are businesses? I* have proposed that MBAs run the schools VS superintendents? Could that work? Do you think we lack the knowledge or the skills of application?

      Thanks for your time. Bob.
  • Jan 30 2014: I believe that the systems societies put in place, be they educational, healthcare or otherwise, reflect the values of that society or country. The article I posted was an attempt to demonstrate that the values in Denmark are different than the values in the US.

    YOu many not like American values when it comes to social welfare programs or our approach to STEM education, but Ad hominem attacks won't change that.
  • Jan 30 2014: You know what scares Toyota Motor ? Being number one. You could look at America's rank as a godsend to everyone participating in education. If America were numero uno. They would have to fire the lowest performing 10% of teachers who fail to keep their student's grades up. Based on America's rank it is probably closer to 20%. P.H. D's would be paid to teach elementary school. Education would take a huge lump of our tax base and health care and other social programs would suffer. Parents would be fined and jailed for students not going to school. Just be glad you can continue to complain about the status quo but it's that status quo that keeps new ideas flowing into a open system looking for the next big thing.
  • Jan 29 2014: Looks like you'll have a problem moving to Denmark
  • Jan 29 2014: I was an apprentice plumber in high school working on a construction lot. How would I have accessed "STEM for Plumbers" during that summer?
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      Jan 30 2014: You would have gotten your STEM for plumber's during the trades courses in your high school. But, I see you didn't chose plumbing as your life calling,
  • Jan 29 2014: Several science educators are trying to make science sexy. However, kids kid geeks, particularly girls, starting in middle school. How do we address intellectual bullying? Teacher responsibility? Role models? Flush them out?
  • Jan 29 2014: Then how do we provide STEM education to those interested in the trades instead of higher ed?
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      Jan 29 2014: Well, you show the interested student his trade and once he is convinced that this is his life's work, you show him how STEM subjects integrated into his trade can make it easier and better for him to practice his trade. For example.
  • Jan 29 2014: The argument goes that employers can't find employees with the right technology skill sets. Yet, PhD's in bioscience are having a hard time getting jobs in academia.

    Should we be focusing more on various levels of STEM education instead of taking one sixe fits all approach?
  • Jan 29 2014: How about creating community based, volunteer organizations providing supplementary STEM education online.ala Khan Academy. It would be a public-private partnership whow would provide the platfrom for the learing management system offering STEM academy. I call them STEM cells.
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      Jan 29 2014: Sure and let's create the same sort of organizations that will provide trade education, etc. and demonstrate the dignity of all labor.
      I am not proposing the diminishing of STEM education, let's provide those young people who want to be scientists and engineers all they need to excel and more.
      But, let's not forget it requires all matter of skills and labor to make the world work.
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    Jan 29 2014: Hay Doc, Yeah I read the PISA exams and saw the rankings. I also see the knee jerk by our government. My simple and first reaction would be to change the grading to demonstration / application of the STEM and get away from multiple guess.

    As a example in higher math we give a A to the correct answer but make little effort to show a meaningful application. The PISA exams are all about application .... other countries do that ... we do not.

    We may well not be as bad off as appears ... this one change could make the difference. One thing for sure high stakes testing is not the answer.

    I wish you well. Bob.
  • Jan 29 2014: Maybe one way to improve on the current knowledge is to make knowledge itself worth getting. For example every teenager wants to be liked by their peers, so make knowledge sexy and the rest will follow.
  • Jan 29 2014: Is the statement "the jobs of the future are STEM jobs" true?
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      Jan 29 2014: No. The last plumber in a world of scientist and engineers is going to make a fortune.
      We need to demonstrate that all labor is of value.
  • Jan 28 2014: What's the problem? It is the teachers, the parents, the students, the system? Your solutions? Why does it matter?
    • Jan 29 2014: There is an additional player in this field in education; i. e.,the government(s). The simple solution to this problem is to free the schools from the mandates or the conditions imposed by the government in getting any supplemental funding. Moreover, these mandates, such as the Common Core, and standard testing and curriculum regulations imposed by the federal government were the result of the negotiation between either the state education boards or the school district administrations without the consent of the individual schools which become unwilling participants even if they don't like it. Of course, the teachers unions also play an obstructive role in the school curriculum improvement project,through the law suits, again even if the students, parents or the majority of the teachers agree with the projects..By the way, you might be surprised that such suits could be won in the court of law, but this has been true. Occasionally they would get the Federal Dept of Justice to their aid, based on the discrimination laws in racial or labor relation ground.