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Education Reporter

Math & Science Ed Called National Security 'Crisis'
WASHINGTON, DC - A report released Feb. 15, 2001 by the U.S. Commission on National Security calls the deficiencies in American math and science education "threats to national security," which must be addressed immediately to protect the nation from "distinctly new dangers." The 14-member Commission, also known as the Hart-Rudman Commission, says Americans "are living off the economic and security benefits of the last three generations' investment in science and education. . . . Our systems of basic scientific research and education are in serious crisis, while other countries are redoubling their efforts. . . . "

"In this Commission's view," the report continues, "the inadequacies of our systems of research and education pose a greater threat to U.S. national security over the next quarter century than any potential conventional war that we might imagine." The authors state that America's ability to continue to lead the world in technological development will depend on "the depth and breadth of its scientific and technical communities."

The report points out that 34% of public school math teachers and nearly 40% of science teachers lack an academic major or minor in these fields, and that a serious shortage of qualified K-12 teachers exists in science and math. It states that the education system must produce "significantly more scientists and engineers, including four times the current number of computer scientists, to meet anticipated demand." The authors lament that the U.S. is already searching abroad for technical experts to fill many U.S. jobs and that this situation is likely to increase, posing greater risks for national security.

The broad effect of the lack of qualified math and science teachers, notes the Commission, is evident in the test scores for U.S. students. Though rising, these scores are not keeping pace with those of students in many other countries. The lag is especially significant among U.S. high school students.

The Commission's report laments that America's education woes in the mathematics and science disciplines are "becoming cumulative" and will require "a multi-faceted set of solutions." The Commission recommends that the federal research and development budget be doubled by 2010, and that Congress pass a "National Security Science and Technology Education Act" to provide:

  • Educational incentives to encourage students to pursue careers in science and technology, and particularly as K-12 teachers in these fields;

  • "Substantial" incentives to bring talented scientists, mathematicians and engineers into government service, both civilian and military;

  • A National Security Teaching Program to encourage graduates and experienced professionals in science, math, and engineering to teach in U.S. public schools for three to five years;

  • Expansion of the Eisenhower Program run by the Department of Education in order to meet the professional development needs of science and math teachers.

The Commission believes "core secondary school curricula should be heavier in science and mathematics," and require higher levels of proficiency.

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