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Education is truly the bedrock of most societies.  It is designed to guide children through the process of absorbing the salient features of the culture.  It molds the behavior in the ways of adulthood and directs the future adult toward her role in society.  As societies grow more complex, the quality of knowledge must evolve.  In the current phase of what has been regarded as the third phase of the "Industrial Revolution" - the Information Age, a new sector of society is emerging.  This sector is made up of scientists, professional educators, consultants, computer technicians, and computer programmers. 

Most of our children have utilized the products developed by or through at least one of the above named sectors.  However, if you were to ask most children today what they would like to be when they grow up, you would only get a few that would say, "A mathematician." or "A computer engineer." They are most likely to aspire toward the images seen on the TV (another development of enhanced technology) or what they are exposed to in everyday life.  They are not often exposed to the scientific laboratory or the lone mathematician hunched over a desk in the wee hours of the morning working out calculations.  

During the Dark Ages literacy dropped to a point where only a few monks could read. Today functional illiteracy is on the rise in the United States and much of the rest of the industrial world even as the standard of what it means to have an education that makes one into a functional, productive human being are rapidly escalating.  As the digital and physical infrastructures continue to converge, intelligence is being built into countless products such as cars, roadways, pipelines and supply chains. In the Dark Ages, like now, people were aware of the fact that something was wrong, but no one had the will or vision to reverse the process.  

College enrollment in areas of technology and science in the United States is not keeping pace with the demands of the socio-cultural demands.  Electrical grids are becoming "smart", enabling consumers to monitor their consumption in real time, making it easier to conserve energy.  Cities are beginning to infuse intelligence in their entire transportation network, improving commutes and providing better information to city planners.  Governments are looking at reducing food-borne diseases via systems that trace products all the way from the farm to the supermarket shelves.

The rise in homelessness and job displacement that has been taking place in "rust belt" regions over the past few decades is actually spreading throughout our nation.  The apostles of the Information Age are convinced that their innovations will open up more job opportunities for the general populace however, statistics indicate that their hopes only apply to a fortunate few.  Critics say that in the best of scenarios any new product lines introduced in the future will probably require fewer workers to assemble, produce and deliver. 

Educators will play an important role in improving the popularity of math and science in our schools, however, they cannot do it all.  Parents must start developing their children's interest from an early age by encouraging them to excel in these areas of endeavor.  Business professionals and community leaders can encourage and give support to those young people that have expressed an interest in these careers with mentors and resources. 

We are at a crossroads and our safe transition to another era will depend on our foresight and determination. 

Please e-mail me and let me know your thoughts on this matter.

Oh yeah, don't forget your autographed copy of "The Ackee Chronicles".

 Tony VanSluytman - the Author

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