Engage those brains

Posted on January 31, 2006

Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander's latest initiative doesn't hold a candle to the war in Iraq or the federal highway bill. At $10 billion, the plan to boost government investment in education and research, however, is a bargain that could pay some real dividends. Alexander has been in touch with President Bush about the plan, which could turn up in this year's State of the Union address. The former Tennessee governor and U.S. education secretary is definitely on the right track, and he's not alone. The report of a blue-ribbon panel of the National Academy of Science reported the grim news last October that China is producing 600,000 new engineers a year, compared with only 70,000 in the United States. American 12th-graders, the authors found, are performing below the average of students from 21 nations in math and science. Tennessee Congressman Bart Gordon cites some of the same figures in his efforts to pass legislation that, among other things, would create scholarships for science, math and engineering students who commit to becoming teachers when they finish school. These are all worthy projects that, for the sake of America's future, should aim squarely at reducing our dependence on foreign oil. Putting this country in the vanguard of alternative energy development would be our most significant national achievement since it won the race to the moon.