A STEM-Powered Presidency

A MiddleWeb Blog

 

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Dear Mr. President,

Congratulations on your leadership! You, along with the House and the Senate, can spearhead some lasting changes that will guide our nation through a pioneering and progressive 21st century.

I wonder: If you were to pick one area that you believe would make the biggest contribution toward a stable and productive future for our nation, what you would choose?

Here’s my suggestion. Our nation is increasing in population and diversity. And we have one, and only one, institution in this country that can provide the glue to hold our nation together – our public education system.  Think about it:

Our public schools are the only institution where people of all races, ethnicities and socioeconomic levels come together, work together, and prepare for our future together.

Our public schools are the primary means of transmitting our nation’s most cherished values from one generation to the next.

Only our public schools can assure that all of our future citizens have the opportunity to become thinkers, learners, creators, and makers who will design the 21st century – and not only its high-tech aspects, but its creative arts and its sense of moral obligation.

The people who re-elected you certainly believe that a strong and well-funded public school system is critical to the survival and productivity of America as a nation.

A STEAM-powered future

Mr. President, imagine a nation of citizens who recognize problems and work together to find solutions. Imagine a workforce armed with 21st century skills — a workforce that continually redesigns and reshapes our future for the better. Imagine a nation that teaches its children how to work together and to care for one another.

Then Imagine a nation that nurtures the talents of its children and helps them to express those gifts to bring beauty and honesty into our world. I know you can imagine that, because you have already publicly committed to ensuring that our students are prepared to succeed in an increasingly competitive workforce and to bolstering America’s commitment to creativity through the humanities and the arts. Imagine a robust blend of science, technology, arts, engineering and mathematics. STEAM.

Let’s stop reliving our mistakes

You may remember the movie Groundhog Day – an early ‘90s film. Every morning the curmudgeonly hero (Bill Murray) kept waking up in the same day. And he had to keep reliving that same day over and over because he never got it right. Our public education system seems stuck. We’re living the same day over and over again.

We don’t have it right yet, but we are learning. We’re setting higher curriculum standards for our students and ourselves as teachers and educators. We are developing and implementing new STEM initiatives to equip our students with state-of-the-art skills.  But we need your help to make this work. We need you to:

Jettison current education initiatives that are no longer productive. Erase ties to practices that are carryovers from the past and start with a clean slate.

Focus our schools on learning rather than testing.

Listen to teachers and honor their expertise. Place teacher leaders in decision-making positions concerning teaching and learning. Include greater numbers of teachers on commissions and committees dealing with education issues.

Provide funding for ongoing teacher learning and growth so that students can learn from new, engaging, and continually updated teaching practices.

Continue to push STEM education. Seek new, additional funding for STEM initiatives such as Educate to Innovate and the STEM Master Teaching Corps and burgeoning STEM to STEAM initiatives around the country.

We can get it right

As the hero in the Groundhog Day movie continued to repeat the same day over and over, he began to reexamine his life and his priorities. And – he finally got it right! I believe we can get it right, too.

First we need to refocus public school policy on producing creative, inventive and resourceful citizens and leaders. Then we need leadership from the top to fund initiatives that will pave the way for teachers to continually learn, retool, and focus on new ways of teaching our millennial generation.

One day, before I’m too old to make it through a schoolhouse door, I really, really want to wake up in tomorrow. Mr. President, during these next four years, will you focus your passion and energy on revitalizing our public schools and the power of project- and problem-based learning represented by high quality STEM/STEAM initiatives?

We might actually blink awake and find out its not Groundhog Day anymore in a million American public classrooms.

Anne Jolly

Anne Jolly began her career as a lab scientist, caught the science teaching bug and was recognized as an Alabama Teacher of the Year during her years as a middle grades science teacher. Today, she works with teacher teams in schools across the Southeast to help them take control of their own professional learning. Her practical how-to book Team to Teach is published by Learning Forward. Anne is also a curriculum consultant for a Mobile-based, NSF-supported project to develop engaging, standards-based STEM lessons that are easily integrated into middle school curricula. One important focus of her MiddleWeb blog is to engage readers in conversations around STEM subjects.

4 Responses

  1. Hear hear!! What a wonderful analogy.

  2. Anne Jolly says:

    Thanks! I think it’s an appropriate analogy for our education predicament!

  1. 11/14/2012

    [...] With presidential leadership and STEM and STEAM-powered learning, we can break the Groundhog Day syndrome, revitalize our public schools, and serve all our 21st century kids.  [...]

  2. 11/15/2012

    [...] With presidential leadership and STEM and STEAM-powered learning, we can break the Groundhog Day syndrome, revitalize our public schools, and serve all our 21st century kids.  [...]

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