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Cloudy Forecast for Math, Science Education

Norman Augustine Photo: NASA
Norman Augustine Photo: NASA

An updated report on U.S. math and science education titled “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” indicates the nation shouldn’t start singing “Blue Skies” anytime soon.

The report, an update of a 2005 study, finds that proficiency in math and science enables the United States to compete globally, especially in the current worldwide economic situation.

“Our conclusion is that we are worse off today than we were [in 2005], not because of any one party or anything. This has been two decades in building,” said Norman Augustine, former chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin and the lead author of the study, in an appearance on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” Friday morning.

Findings from the report:

  • The United States graduates more visual and performing arts majors than it does engineers
  • 51 percent of U.S. patents were awarded to non-U.S. companies
  • U.S. math and science education (K-12) ranks 48th worldwide, as ranked by World Economic Forum
  • Nearly half of Americans don’t know how long it takes the Earth to circle the sun

The sobering statistics have implications across the board, as Americans compete for jobs within the United States and outside.

The lack of investment in science education and innovation, Augustine said, could lead to continued stagnant unemployed numbers, or even increases.

“The smarter people, the better-educated people tend to be abroad at this point, and companies are recognizing that; they’re moving there,” Augustine said.

Augustine said if the United States is serious about reforming math and science education, it must think long term.

“This is a marathon,” he said, “not a sprint.”

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