Education Discussion with an Olympia Legislator

On Tuesday, Nov. 24th, FOSEP had a discussion with WA State Representative Glenn Anderson about the state of science education in America. He informed us that in the next 10 years, about half of the nation’s researchers (both industrial and academic) will reach retirement age. However, the “student pipeline” to fill those positions is starting to dry up because more and more of today’s students are not proficient in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, mathematics).

Solutions to this are not easy to come by. Foreign students who obtain higher education in America often go back to their native countries. Policies meant to bolster science/math K-12 education are often met with stiff opposition by teachers’ unions. And the current economic crisis is not making education funding any easier, either.

A potential solution discussed at the meeting was more direct outreach to students. By getting “hands-on” science experience, the hope is that students would be excited to learn about it themselves.

But the overall impression from the meeting was that the American public is facing an education crisis. Our education system, and hence, our nation’s status as the world’s leading producer of science and technology, is being threatened. Unfortunately, the list of problems is longer than the list of solutions. Now is the time to fix that.

Alex B. Berezow is a microbiology Ph.D. candidate at the University of Washington.