President Barack Obama said Monday his administration will focus heavily on strengthening math, science, technology and engineering education in the United States in order to rise from the middle to the top of rankings in international education.
According to a White House statement, Obama’s new “Educate to Innovate” campaign will combine resources from companies, non-profit institutions, universities and public schools to motivate more American schoolchildren to pursue careers in math and science-related fields.
The White House said the initiative is needed because of the ongoing change to a more technology-oriented economy.
“Reaffirming and strengthening America’s role as the world’s engine of scientific discovery and technological innovation is essential to meeting the challenges of this century,” Obama said in the statement.
John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology, said in a conference call Monday the goal of the program is to increase interest in science and math for American children. He also said the program will increase enthusiasm for science education among parents.
“We need to make math and science cool again,” Holdren said. “In order to do that, we need to get the kids more interested about math and science — but we also need to get the parents more excited about it.”
He also said more emphasis will be placed on rewarding American college students by boosting scholarships for students taking math, science and teaching classes.
Holdren said teachers in the United States need to be treated with the same kind of respect as in countries such as Japan and Korea, where math and science education is world-renowned.
Domestic Policy Council Deputy Director Heather Higginbottom said Obama’s educational reforms will continue to expand beyond his administration.
“This isn’t a one-size-fits-all campaign,” Higginbottom said in the conference call. “We’re starting something that we’re hoping will catch on and grow.”
Higginbottom added the plan will reach 10 million students within the next four years.
Holdren and Higginbottom also said the president will hold a yearly science fair at the White House that will honor young innovators who have won science competitions throughout the country.
Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, said Obama’s education reforms show he has not considered the U.S. Constitution while making policy.
“Under our U.S. Constitution, it is not the business of the federal government to get involved in K-12 education,” Grothman said. “And it is appalling that for the second administration in a row, we have a president who has no respect for our Constitution.”
Grothman also said he plans to reintroduce a bill that will eliminate calculators from elementary math education, saying they have become a “crutch” which prevent American students from competing with international students.