Excellent post Geoffrey. I could not agree with you more. I'm amazed at how our country has "folded" relative to promoting STEM subjects AND addressing the great need for early involvement of middle school and certainly high school students. We no longer have a national vision or national goal the manned space program provided. We get absolutely no help from the "fed" whose participants are too busy trying to get reelected. In the long run, our country will be the losers.
"Oddly, science and engineering play an extraordinarily important role in this state."
Maybe I am uninitiated on the possible meanings of this statement, and prefer not to criticize a well-written article that I personally believe _needs_ to be written again and again. As a native Texan who has always seen technological enterprise as a dominant force, I ask... oddly? Substantiate.
Chuck, that's really interesting. What was car reliability being so poorly engineered back then and apparently, only in that decade? I've heard that residential construction in that decade was poorly engineered and shoddily made. What was going on during the 1970s to encourage or demand such lousy quality in both fields?
Most automotive engineers will admit that vehicle reliability was poor in the '70s. Even the staunchest apologists will admit that the reliability of cars in North America climbed when American automakers realized they were in a dogfight in the late 1980s. That's another way of saying, "We could have made better cars, but we didn't start doing it until we were forced to."
where I mentioned the shift in the mid-70s to smaller Japanese cars, which seemed to me like an '"evolutionary" process at the time. But I was thinking of mileage and small size, not lousy engineering--I didn't realize that was going on at the time. That would obviously add a big impetus to the shift!
Good point, Ann. Sputnik was easy for the masses to support, especially given the way American politicians were characterizing it. Given the fear of nuclear war at the time, many Americans believed that Russian spacecrafts would be flying overhead, flinging hydrogen bombs down on us from on high. Lyndon Johnson famously said, "I do not believe that this generation of Americans is willing to go to bed each night by the light of a Communist moon." For pure sense of national mission, it's tough to match that.
Alex, that's an interesting point about many Sputniks instead of just one. Not only did the one Sputnik sway public opinion and galvanize US education efforts, its singularity made the whole issue easy to understand for many people, as well as making it easy to believe we could "win". I think the fact that now there are many Sputniks makes it harder to identify the issue--which is basically the same--harder to sway public opinion, and harder to galvanize education efforts.
Dean Orsak closes with the observation that Sputnik catalyzed a whole generation to get going on science and math. The problem today is that there's no such singular issue to sway public opinion, yet a thousand tiny Sputniks are out there undercutting the U.S.'s able to maintain its position. We need to get going on STEM. Here's an interview I did over at InformationWeek with former Intel chairman Craig Barrett on STEM.
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