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Bush Trumpets Math, Science as Economic Tool in State of the Union Speech

Bush Trumpets Math, Science as Economic Tool in State of the Union Speech 

      Leaders in science and innovation have been clamoring for a political breakthrough. They now seem to have won a spot on the agenda of President Bush and Congress.

      In his State of the Union speech, Bush said he wants to boost spending on science research, rigorous math and science teaching in high school and help for young, struggling math students.

      It was just the kind of support that a broad range of educators, researchers and business leaders in the United States have been seeking. Math and science, fields considered the backbone of a skilled workforce and an innovative economy, have become U.S. vulnerabilities recently.

      As the U.S. compares itself to peers in a variety of ways such as test scores by high school students, bachelor’s degrees in science and engineering and exports of high-tech products the nation is being outperformed by China, India and others.

      “Our greatest advantage in the world has always been our educated, hardworking, ambitious people, and we are going to keep that edge,” Bush said in unveiling his math and science agenda.

      Bush framed the issue this week as a matter of economic urgency, along with immigration, health care, energy and open- trade markets.

      Yet big questions remain about where Congress would find money to support Bush’s plans, which would cost tens of billions of dollars, and whether other education spending would be cut.

      In the meantime, advocates for science, math and engineering celebrated the attention.

      Gerald Wheeler, executive director of the National Science Teachers Association, thanked Bush for underscoring the importance of science and math in front of a national audience.

      Wheeler said federal support will help a new generation of scientists, engineers and workers “find new ways to defend our country, create new technologies and cure diseases.”

      Nils Hasselmo, President of the Association of American Universities, a coalition of leading research schools, said government spending in basic research will pay real-life dividends.

      Past federal investments, he said, “have led to significant improvements in the health, wealth and security of this country including a host of high-tech advances such as the Internet, the MRI and the global positioning system that we now take for granted.”

      Bush called for doubling federal spending on critical research programs in the physical sciences over 10 years, a proposed increase of $50 billion.

      He asked for training an additional 70,000 teachers over five years to teach advanced math and science courses in high school, where demand for such classes has soared nationwide. He also proposed new math programs for elementary and middle school students, and reiterated his goal to lure thousands of mathematicians and scientists to become adjunct high school teachers.

Associated Press

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