American Kids Really Stink at Science, Obama Tells Nation

Filed under: In The News, Education: Tweens, Education: Teens

President Obama said America is trailing other nations when it comes to math and science education in his State of the Union address. Credit: Tim Sloan, AFP/Getty Images


In his State of the Union address Jan. 25, President Obama said the United States lags behind other nations in science and math education.

Duh.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out. Good thing, too. America is not likely to produce a lot of rocket scientists in the next few years because -- wow! -- our kids really suck at science and math.

Obama probably read a real bummer of a report issued earlier in the day by the U.S. Department of Education about how most public school science students don't know their deoxyribonucleic acid from their gluteus maximus.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress looked at 156,500 fourth-graders (ages 9 to 10), 151,100 eighth-graders (ages 13 to 14) and 11,100 high school seniors (ages 17 to 18). Only 1 percent of fourth-graders, 2 percent of eighth-graders and 1 percent of high school seniors were advanced in science.

"The results released today show that our nation's students aren't learning at a rate that will maintain America's role as an international leader in the sciences," Secretary of Education Arne Duncan says in a press release. "When only 1 or 2 percent of children score at the advanced levels on NAEP, the next generation will not be ready to be world-class inventors, doctors and engineers."

But what's considered "advanced"?

Before graduating high school, an advanced science student should be able to recognize a nuclear fission reaction without saying, "That's the dangdest thing I ever saw. What the heck is that?"

By middle school, students should able to predict the sun's position in the sky without looking like they just got struck upside the head by a two-by-four. Even by the fourth-grade, kids should recognize that gravitational force constantly affects an object.

In other words, there's a reason Grandma can't fly.

What can fly, apparently, is some of these basic concepts as they whoosh over the heads of America's students.

"Meanwhile, nations like China and India realized that with some changes of their own, they could compete in this new world," Obama said in his State of the Union address. "And so they started educating their children earlier and longer with greater emphasis on math and science."

The good news is that America's kids aren't complete numbskulls yet. According to the report, 72 percent of fourth-graders, 63 percent of eighth-graders and 60 percent of high school seniors are still doing adequately in science class. Not great, mind you, but adequately.

Apparently, that's not good enough for the president. In his address, he called for 100,000 more science and technology teachers by the end of the decade.

"Our nation's long-term economic prosperity depends on providing a world-class education to all students, especially in mathematics and science," Duncan adds in the the press release.

Americans should take that as a challenge, Obama said in his address.

"The question is whether all of us -- as citizens and as parents -- are willing to do what's necessary to give every child a chance to succeed," he said.

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