October 4th, 2010
11:05 AM ET

Letters to the President: #623 'Blinding me with science'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: President Obama has voiced strong support for the sciences, but I’m asking in today’s letter to the White House, just what does true support mean?

Dear Mr. President,

I am starting this week with something from last week lingering in my mind: The idea that we were laying off 1200 people at NASA at roughly the same time as China was launching a big, impressive rocket as part of their rapidly growing lunar program.

In the past, I’ve made the case for a strong, continued U.S. space effort, but let me put that aside here and just talk about education. Plenty of folks, including you, have argued loud and long about the idea that our country is losing its competitive edge in some technological fields precisely because we aren’t excelling in math and science.

I agree. But there is a little cart-and-horse action to consider here. Or rocket-and-spacewalk if you prefer. If we want to be great at math and science, it seems to me that we absolutely must push our economy toward industries that need mathematicians and scientists. In our universities, we need to encourage merit scholarships for the best and brightest. We need to compete for the technical talent of the world and reward our own homegrown experts with the most robust, aggressive research and development in the world.

To put it simply, if we want to encourage educators and students to really focus on these areas, the math is simple: Make it pay. Give it the respect it deserves.

I’m not going to get into the whole question here of whether NASA is the right agency with which to make that happen, but I will say, what else do we have? What other national effort, whether by government or private industry, is clearly a jewel in the crown gleaming for all young Americans to strive for?

Even if you don’t care that China is racing as quickly as it can to beat everyone else to Mars, we all should care about this: That kind of emphasis on science and science education will also produce new energy systems, better medicines, faster computers, more agile robots, and on and on it goes; and all of those things will create generations of some of the best jobs on this planet.

Just a thought on a busy Monday.


Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (One Response)
  1. just_jotter

    As someone who has 2 friends who are losing their jobs on the Shuttle Program at Kennedy Space Center, I commend you for writing this Tom. Many good, well qualified people will be unemployed...yet again.

    I hope President Obama reads your letters. If not, he is surely missing out on what I believe to be a great resource.

    October 4, 2010 at 12:54 pm |

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