This week's White House Science Fair is another great example of presidents using the White House to push a scientific agenda. Levar Burton, one of the co-hosts of the event, often repeated Obama's saying that you should be invited to the White House whether you win an sports championship or a science fair. Not only is it great to see young scientists celebrated on a national stage, but you also get super adorable photos like this:
It's a beautiful scene, isn't it? It's one that needs to replicated in cities and towns across the country. Not only do we owe it to the future generations to be scientifically literate, but we need to avoid being among the bottom of developed countries for math and science. The gap needs to be eliminated.
Philadelphia does a better job than most cities when it comes to promoting science. I've previously covered the Philadelphia Science Festival, which turned the heart of the city into a big playground of ... bugs and stuff. The George Washington Carver Science Fair (yes, the website sucks ... Facebook is somewhat better) gives elementary and high school kids a chance to show off their science skills, with judges from the community (like my friends the Black Tribbles). But even with these resource, the everyday school experience of a significant amount of students is devoid of the science resources that are needed for success. The situation is even worse with other cities that don't have fair at all.
When most people think science resources, they mention labs, circuit boards to wire, hydrochloric acid to burn things, fetal pigs to dissect, etc. These are all important, but they are secondary to the truth issue. The most important part is making sure that kids have the space to be curious and creative. This is extremely important because kids with all the resources in the world will waste them if they don't have a spirit of curiosity. Similarly, kids with nothing have and will continue to change the world of scientific discovery because they were allowed to poke around, fail, and fail again in their creative pursuits.
I attended an event by Philly's only Black owned talk radio station WURD called Blackout: Reinventing Media in the Digital Age. There was an amazing panel, including FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, that all echoed a similar concern - we need to instill an environment of entrepreneurial spirit, curiosity, and creativity in our kids at a very young age. We live in a time where we can do research on anything that a kid displays affinity towards and help them understand it on a deeper level. This is how we can kill the gap between have and have not when it comes to science education both within our country, and between our country and the rest of the world.