… Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America. … We will restore science to its rightful place, … We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.
… What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.
>> Excerpts from President Barack Obama’s inaugural address, January 20, 2009
An Obama Initiative for The United States of America:
Establish and fund a NASA Academy of the Physical Sciences
three-year public high school at 150 public research universities (three per state)
Enroll 34 students as sophomores per academy per year
and designate the students NASA Scholars
By Steven A. Sylwester
November 3, 2009
This NASA Academy of the Physical Sciences proposal attempts to help prepare future generations of scientists to make world-changing discoveries in all existing science disciplines, and in new science disciplines yet to be discovered. Young people with ambitions to work in the many new nanotechnology fields will be well prepared for their future university studies by the NAPS curriculum.
NAPS will establish a universal curriculum with the acronym CSCPC, which describes “Computer Science, Chemistry, Physics, and Calculus.” Though NAPS does not provide any instruction in biology, the curriculum will fulfill the major requirements in chemistry, mathematics, and physics for those graduates who will seek a university bachelor degree in biology.
This Obama Initiative will provide a special opportunity for 5,100 of the most gifted sophomores being educated in America’s public high schools every year. Including the juniors and seniors who continue in a NAPS until graduation, no more than 15,300 students will every year be the direct recipients of this opportunity, but millions of other high school students will every year receive indirect benefits that will improve their math and science education as a consequence of this initiative.
Each state will every year spend 85% of its average per high school student per year expenditure for each of its NASA Scholars to fund its in-state NAPS academies, and the U.S. government will add $4,000 per student per year funding to each of the 150 NAPS academies nationwide for a total federal funding of $61.2 million per year. The states will be obligated to collect their 15% per student per year expenditure savings into a Science Education Fund that will be exhausted every year through the issuing of major grants to upgrade public high school science classrooms with new computer technology, new laboratory equipment, and/or general facility improvements. The grants will range in size from $20,000 to $50,000 each, and will be awarded by a three-person review committee comprised of one science professor from each of the three public research universities where the in-state NAPS academies are sited. If a state expends $8,500 per high school student per year, its SEF will collect and then spend out $390,150 per year, which could result in 19 grants of $20,534 each.
After the awarding of SEF grants every year, the state governors will consider the merits of all unfunded grant requests for their individual state, and will forward all deserving requests to in-state private industry leaders for their consideration and possible patronage. Special corporate tax credits will be given to companies that fund SEF grant requests. If the SEF grant review committee recommends improvements to particular requests along with encouragement to request a grant the following year (for example, if the request was for equipment that is being made obsolete by new technology), those recommendations will remain attached to the unfunded requests that are forwarded to industry leaders.
States with more than three public universities will select the three universities that: 1) have the largest population base within an established to-and-from daily commute using public mass transit, and 2) do federally funded research on topics associated with gifted learning. All site universities should propose and do research that will improve the NAPS academies over time while also maximizing the benefits that can be had by other schools. Grant money from both federal and private sources will support select research over time.
Three states have fewer than three public universities each: Delaware (two), Rhode Island (two), and Wyoming (one). The four NAPS academies not established in those three states will be assigned to California, thereby giving California a total of seven NAPS academies.
If any states choose not to participate in this initiative, those states will permanently forfeit their entitled NAPS academies to other states that desire more NAPS academies. The U.S. Secretary of Education will permanently reassign to other states any NAPS academies that are forfeited.
THE SIX BASIC PREMISES:
1. Starting no later than 7th grade, public schools should accelerate the learning of those students who display an extraordinary aptitude in math and science.
2. Mathematics is the first language of the sciences and chemistry is the second, and physics is a dialect shared by both. Ideally, the physical sciences should be learned before the life sciences; understanding chemistry and physics first makes understanding biology easier afterwards.
3. Knowing computer technology and its science and being skilled in its use is now indispensable for laboratory work in all the sciences.
4. The world has changed. The basic body of knowledge that is now required learning for scientists has become enormous, and continues to grow every day. Therefore, high school should be an uninterrupted time for defined, intensive learning in math and the sciences for would-be scientists and mathematicians.
5. Mid-teenagers are capable of hard, sustained intellectual effort far beyond what is normally expected of them.
6. Ultimately, science is more a disciplined method of investigation and discovery to become skilled at than it is a body of factual knowledge to be learned; for scientists, science is something that is done. Therefore, NASA Scholars should be taught more so as apprentices than as students; they should learn to both think-and-do and think-and-know — to become explorers and discoverers, not just experts on what is already known.
As one considers this initiative, two Albert Einstein quotes should be kept in mind:
"Things should be made as simple as possible, but not any simpler."
"I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world."
Simplicity. Imagination. Knowledge.
Malcolm Gladwell speaking about genius: