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Today, advanced technologies are essential to how we live. Some level of technical literacy is necessary for each of us.
How can we continue to let a single student leave school without the ability to make informed decisions on technical matters? How can we afford to think that technology-illiterate graduates are adequately prepared to participate in 21st Century society?
The importance of K-12 STEM education is not lost on our country’s policy makers. President Obama mentions it often, including prominently in his most recent State of the Union address. STEM is vital; it means jobs. It builds the strength of the U.S. engineering workforce. It contributes to the health of our economy.
But technical literacy is necessary for everybody, not just those entering technical careers. Our system of education should make sure that students graduate capable of informed decisions about stem cell research, or nanotechnology, or the construction and maintenance of bridges. Only a technically literate society can make wise decisions about hydraulic fracturing, or nuclear power, or the rollout of Smartgrid technology. How can we decide what to do about the Keystone XL pipeline when most people don’t understand the important issues?
I’m an engineer by training, not an educator. I defer to professional educators to determine how technical literacy can best be broadly achieved. But I do know this: it needs to happen. Our students need more exposure to applied science and technology in our educational institutions.
Our era is characterized by the advance of sophisticated technologies. Nearly everything about our way of life has been revolutionized by technology, to everybody’s benefit. Our very life expectancy has grown by decades just in the last century, in large part because of such advances. So much depends on the choices we make about these systems; we ought to do what it takes to educate ourselves to make the best decisions we can.
Whether you agree or disagree, I hope you’ll write in and sound off. I look forward to the conversation.
"I'm mostly grateful for the wonderful friends
I've made in ASME."
— Cynthia Stong, ASME Member since 1989
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