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How Can We Improve American Science Education?

Read more from Slate’s special issue on science education.

In theory, nerdiness has never been cooler. America sanctifies Steve Jobs and envies Mark Zuckerberg. There are hipster chemists, hipster roboticists, hipster astronomers. There is TED, an entire industry devoted to cool-hunting technology and science.

And yet American science is in crisis. In 2010, only 4.9 percent of American jobs were in science and engineering, down from 5.3 percent in 2000—the first such decline since 1950. Recent studies, including this one, warn that we’re falling behind the rest of the world in innovation and education. Science test scores are stagnant, and a majority of American eighth graders score below proficiency. U.S. companies are building factories overseas because they can’t hire enough competent engineers at home. President Obama says we are facing a new “Sputnik moment.” Inspiring the next generation of inventors, healers, and builders is perhaps the single most important public policy question of our time, which is why Slate will spend the month of June full-court-pressing it. Read our introduction to the project here and all our stories about it here.  

Most importantly, we’re collecting your best ideas for how to improve American science education. If this is Sputnik, how can we repeat the success of 50 years ago? How can we educate more and better scientists and engineers? How can we make science and math enticing to kids? How can we teach basic science literacy to non-scientists, so they can have a voice in public discussion about cutting-edge technologies and discoveries? If you’ve got a notion—an Edisonian light bulb above your head—for how to teach science so that kids love and stick with it, submit it below. You can tag your submission with one of the below categories:

Future Einsteins: making a career in science more attractive. 
Science literacy for all: educating those not destined to become scientists. 
In the classroom: making science class more exciting. 
Teaching the teachers: how to improve the way we train science educators. 
Closing the gender gap: bringing girls into science and technology. 
More investment: getting the money for scholarships, programs, and other endeavors that encourage science education. 
Everything else: The brilliant ideas that don’t fit these molds.

Important note: Please submit one single idea per entry. Entries with four or five ideas all jammed together will probably not make the cut! If you have three great ideas, submit three great entries!

Then comment and vote on the other ideas proposed by Slate readers. Voting begins now and ends on June 24. We’ll be publicizing the most compelling and popular ideas at the end of the month. 

Also in Slate’s special issue on science education: Make magazine’s Dale Dougherty on learning science by building rockets and robots and Fred Kaplan on why another “Sputnik moment” would be impossible. This article arises from Future Tense, a joint partnership of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State University.

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