Price is right to support COSIWritten by Dal Lawrence | | firstname.lastname@example.org
I unabashedly support the Lucas County levy, Issue 37, to reopen COSI. Here’s why I think you should, too.
In 2007, I served as a member of a national commission that looked at the connection between the skills of the American workforce and our nation’s economic future. The commission members included former governors, secretaries of education, former cabinet secretaries, various members of Congress, economists, and education policymakers. I was there because the commission’s chairman Ray Marshall, a former U.S. Secretary of Labor, had written positively about some of the things we are doing in Toledo Public Schools. Our report, “Tough Choices, Tough Times,” focused on the faltering American economy and the need to redesign American schools in order to remain competitive in the world economic system. The report has subsequently moved several governors, including Ohio’s Governor Ted Strickland, to begin the transformation of public education. Part of that redesign calls for greater emphasis on science and math. Engaging youngsters at an earlier age is essential to that scientific quest.
The bottom line in the report was that the United States must once again become the inventor and innovator in the world marketplace, or we face a continuing decline in our standard of living. Translated, it means scientific thinking is critical to our future and our retooled schools must provide the technical foundation. The importance of COSI is not about filling Downtown space, as some people suggest. COSI provides the first step young people can take to discover the wonders of science. And science and technology are the keys to our economy here locally.
Now you can see where COSI fits in. COSI gives this area the opportunity for early hands-on scientific experiences to every youngster in every school in Lucas County. Some of these experiences are delivered directly at the school. COSI also helps teachers and parents learn how to engage children in the fun of scientific learning.
Thirty years ago, the United States accounted for thirty percent of the world’s college graduates. Today, it’s fourteen percent. Of every 120 ninth graders in our nation, only 68 get their diplomas on time and almost half of the rest will never get a diploma. India and China graduate twice as many engineers as we do. Thirty percent of all Chinese college students are pursuing engineering degrees. The number of engineering degrees awarded here is down twenty percent from our peak year, 1985. Over half of all our Ph.D.s in engineering are foreign-born. As if this weren’t bad enough, in India an engineer earns the equivalent of $7,500 annually. And both nations have many other technically trained engineers who are products of a two or three-year sub-college diploma program. Our work is cut out for us. We must find and develop more elementary students who are drawn to scientific learning because our economic future is tied to international economics, whether we like or not.
American schools have a less than stellar record when it comes to teaching science to elementary kids. Hands-on experience is so vital at an early age but is often missing either because facilities are inadequate, or teachers too are insecure about science instructions or lack time during an already crowded school day. Toledo Public Schools is now using a team of excellent elementary science teachers to help their colleagues design science lessons. The results are beginning to show. Toledo Public Schools’ new facilities are better designed for science classes, also. But, both locally and nationally, we still have a long way to go.
I am not a scientist. I taught history. But I know a good deal when I see one. The cost in dollars for Issue 37 is ridiculously cheap — $5.21 per year for a $100,000 house — and I know that somewhere out there is another inventor waiting to be discovered, another kid waiting to be hooked on solar energy, electric transportation, or global greening.
Toledo is poised to become a very important center for solar energy and other innovations our region and nation need. We simply can’t turn our backs on this chance to reinvent the economic future of the region and our own employment future. We have the location. We have the water. We have the need, and so does our nation. We can’t be shortsighted about this opportunity. COSI is a resource critical to each and every one of us. And the price is right.
But most important is the community’s involvement in the science education of our county’s youth. Each and every one’s future standard of living depends on each and every one of us making the right decisions now. Together we can and should do this.
Dal Lawrence is a former president of the Toledo Federation of Teachers.