With a simple question last week, Del. Thomas A. “Tag” Greason offered new spark to a flickering, but important, dialogue.
The heart of the question was familiar: How do we encourage students to engage in STEM subjects that are so important in the 21st century economy? However, he also hit on the type of creative thinking that will be required to make it happen.
Should computer science class be declared a suitable substitute for learning Spanish or French as high school students pursue their degrees? Maybe.
Should students have the schedule flexibility to take on the challenges of elective math, science or computer courses? Clearly, there are merits in making that happen.
The issue is important not just for K-12 education, but also for workforce development. More should be done—locally and nationally—to make STEM education a priority.
Across the country, boosting STEM education should be viewed as an urgent national security mission. Without greater effort and emphasis on these subject areas, a generation of jobs will be institutionally outsourced to foreign lands.
Locally, the demand for tech-literate workers already outstrips the available supply. The achieving Loudoun’s goals to attract more companies that offer high-paying, cyber-powered jobs will be directly linked to the region’s ability to provide enough skilled employees to fill their cubicles.
County leaders have recognized the need, and the plans for the Academies of Loudoun represent a significant investment. However, that important project won’t play a role in the lives of a majority of students. Greason’s suggestion—or a similarly out-of-the-box approach—opens the possibility of more students diving more deeply into the subject areas as part of their general coursework.
There may be other—and better—ideas out there. Let’s keep that conversation going.