STEM programs should be a priority
Published: Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, November 2, 2011 16:11
In a year where there isn't much bipartisanship, one area where both Democrats and Republicans find common ground is education reform.
According to the 2006 Programme for International Student Assessment comparison, American students ranked 21st out of 30 in science literacy among students from developed countries, and 25th out of 30 in math literacy. According to James M. Gentile, president and CEO of Research Corporation for Science Advancement, "President [Barack] Obama is rightly making STEM [science, technology, engineering, mathematics] education a high priority." I couldn't agree more.
So when Gov. Rick Scott said, "I want to spend our dollars giving people science, technology, engineering, math degrees … so that when they get out of school, they can get a job," one might think not only is this common sense, but this is something that both sides of the isle can get on board with.
Even the White House has launched its own Educate to Innovate campaign. Its goal is "to improve the participation and performance of America's students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics."
According to an article by Reuters, manufacturing companies such as Motorola, Caterpillar and Siemens are having difficulty filling positions, more than half of which require STEM-related skills. So with all of this information on hand, you would think that we could all agree that something needs to be done.
However, what we end up finding is that the Florida Democratic Party is doing nothing short of an all-out smear campaign against anyone who aligns with the president on this issue. Scott has also proposed other reforms, such as paying instructors more based on class size.
I am sure, being a part of the second largest university in the nation, that many professors with classes with more than 900 students would get on board with this proposal. Instructors could also get an annual bonus as high as $10,000 if rated high enough on student satisfaction surveys. All of this to "get the conversation going," Scott told the Orlando Sentinel.
All of these reforms come down to paying high-performing faculty more. This is a concept that is found in the "real world" outside of the education arena. Employees in the private sector are subjected to job performance reviews and are compensated according to the results. They are often paid bonuses for high performance.
Even the interim chair for the UCF Department of Civil, Environmental and Construction Engineering, Essam Radwan, said "We need to replenish the number of scientists in this country and compete with science in China and India and Brazil."
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Florida has gained 110,300 private-sector jobs and just announced on Oct. 31 that "Boeing will manufacture and test its Crew Space Transportation-100 spacecraft and locate its Commercial Crew program headquarters at Kennedy Space Center. Boeing expects to create 140 jobs in Florida by June 2013 and 550 by December 2015."
The question is, who will fill those jobs? Will these jobs be filled by scientists, engineers and mathematicians from the United States or will they be filled by non-U.S. professionals?