Thursday, January 10, 2013

Starting Technological and Science Education Earlier

By Sean Scarpiello

Recently, I was listening to a lecture by Neil deGrasse Tyson, a famous astrophysicist, who previously addressed members of the United States Senate regarding spending in the sciences. Within his lecture he mentioned a few ideas that I found interesting. He indicated that more focus needs to be put on math, sciences, and technology in schools. He also described that the countries that place the most emphasis on these fields in education will one day have the best economies and will become the self-acclaimed leaders of the world. In light of this, I began to think about why a government decides to educate its citizens. Of course, it is to have well informed citizens who can advance their own country, improve their economy, and to continue to push the boundaries of science and technology. With this in mind, all countries continue to push forward to keep up with each other in the highly competitive international arena. In particular, I thought about the ways America could improve its education system as our economy struggles and we are slipping from our position as the top superpower of the world.

When I think about my education in science and technology, I find that even within the past decade, it has been far from perfect. The key to advancing in these fields is to start this education early. For example, in regard to technology, my classmates and I were never formally taught about computers in grade school. We did have a formal typing class in fifth grade, but by then I felt as if it was too little and too late, as far as computer science is concerned. Moreover, I found the majority of people fail to use technologies easily available to us on a basic computer. For example, many people do not know the full capabilities of programs like Excel. Therefore many people write off Excel as a program strictly for scientists, even though everyone from business people and writers to politicians and homeowners could find programs like Excel beneficial to them in their day to day life. As far as other areas in computer science, the majority of people only have enough knowledge to simply get by. We all know how to use devices such as thumb drives and software such as Word and PowerPoint. However, even within these programs, most do not recognize and utilize the full capabilities of such technologies.

To address this issue, we need start off technology education early in our students’ development. Recently, there has been the debate to stop teaching cursive in schools because it is becoming obsolete. Instead of cursive, we could begin teaching first and second graders to type and learn about computer science. Moreover, we should teach a well-rounded and thorough knowledge in computers. For instance, we all use memory devices to store music, documents, pictures, and more, but do you know how these devices go about storing so much information in a piece of plastic the size of your thumb? We should really focus on the science and inner workings of computers at an early age. This will lead to a more adept future of adults who know how to work with computers. This is especially true when you take into account the number of adults who can currently use computers to their full capabilities.

In addition to the education of technology, we also need to focus on an improved education of sciences. Again, an effective solution would be to start early. Looking back on my early education in the sciences, I found that much of what I was learning up until my senior year in high school was material that simply needed to be memorized and regurgitated. Then, once I took AP and college level courses, we began to apply and evaluate scientific knowledge. This type of learning through application, evaluation, and generally challenging current thinking needs to be introduced much earlier. If students were forced to apply knowledge and think critically in all types of classes, we could definitely see and improvement. Science and math are both difficult subjects to teach and learn, but once students can begin to question everything around them and critically think about all subjects, we will see an improvement in other areas at school. In fact, I feel as if there is a barrier in our brains that we all must get past in order to make critical thinking second nature. The best way to get over this barrier is forcing ourselves to think about the different ways science, and other subject matter, can be applied to our world and thinking deeply about the different sides of an argument.

Overall, by starting education in the fields of technology and science earlier in a student’s educational career, we can see a vast increase of breakthroughs being made in these fields. Also, students will also be able to apply their application and critical thinking skills in other fields such as writing, business, and politics, as well as real world situations. Ultimately, this would make us better citizens, as we will be able to make informed decisions, and as a result the country we live in will only benefit.

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