Monday, July 20, 2009

Happy Moon Landing

To mark the 40th anniversary of the moon landing, I want to bring up an article that marked the 50th anniversary of Sputnik (very un-American of me, I know). It was about how Sputnik spurred a new era in science education in this country. While many still speak of "new math" with derision, it was part of a wave of changes that energized science education and changed the way students thought about science. Science was no longer about boring equations, but about space and sending a man to the moon! Unfortunately, we've been on a downward spiral since the end of the cold war. It no longer seems urgent to understand science. It no longer seems exciting. And without the "red menace" to spur us on, we've become complacent. Perhaps some of the blame goes to the government, for mandating testing yearly only in Math and English. But there's plenty of blame to spread around. The curriculum is "too hard" for the students when it's interactive - or maybe just "too hard" for the teachers. Interactive teaching takes too long. All the bright scientists make more money not teaching. The list goes on. But something needs to be done. I imagine that every computer scientist has experienced the shock and awe and terror that accompanies admission of our job. It's just a symptom of the larger problem. And while perhaps science will never be (and should never be?) easy, it should certainly be exciting. After all, someone needs to create the next imagination-inspiring "moon landing."

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