Alaska editorial: Keeping America's competitive edge

Posted: Friday, March 30, 2007

The following editorial first appeared in the Ketchikan Daily News:

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Schooling isn't just about achieving a good GPA for college and then using that education to get a lucrative job.

That's important, of course. We all want a good job to support ourselves and our families. But some are academically driven for a greater purpose.

The education we acquire contributes to the well-being of our community. The better educated, who also possess maturity and common sense, become its leaders in a variety of arenas.

This nation wouldn't be what it is today technologically without well-educated leaders in the fields of engineering, math and science. Men and women in those fields developed the United States over the past 200 years.

Sen. Ted Stevens and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, along with a bipartisan group of U.S. senators, believe in the importance of those areas of study. This group has introduced the America Competes Act, which supports an increase in basic research and improved teaching of engineering, math and science in the United States.

The act focuses on improving U.S. innovation and competitiveness. The areas of focus include. increasing the investment in research and improving educational opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math from elementary school through graduate school; and developing an infrastructure for innovation.

"Our nation's success is the direct result of our advancements in science and technology," says Sen. Ted Stevens. "Scientists and engineers create new industries, and their efforts ensure our competitiveness in the global economy. To continue this tradition, we must increase our investment in basic research and improve the teaching of math, science and engineering."

The act grew out of the National Academies' "Rising Above the Gathering Storm" report and the Council on Competitiveness' "Innovate America" report.

Math and science are two of the basics. The others are reading and writing. These should be strong areas of focus for all elementary school students. If they are introduced to them in a way that intrigues them, they will grasp the subjects and be excited to achieve in those areas. Some already are.

But the goal of the act would be to increase the number of students interested in those areas and then give them and their schools the resources to continue education in engineering, math and science fields. Students from those fields will build America in the 21st century.

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