« AnteriorContinuar »
Senator STAFFORD. I should have met you about 50 years ago. (Laughter.]
Senator DOMENICI. That was a long time ago when I started, but I did not leave because I did not love it. I was challenged by somebody to go to law school, and I did.
From what I can tell, the problems I saw then in math and science have continued with one interruption for 8 or 10 years postSputnik, when the United States decided to get with it and place a special emphasis on math, science, and engineering education.
I was rather amazed, in seeking information from experts nationally and in my State, to have them stress how that post-Sputnik program had worked, but we had not found the ability to continue it in our school systems.
I have a prepared statement, Mr. Chairman. The first two or three pages of it are redundant to your excellent statement of the problem, so I will not read them. I will merely tell you that I was in the city of Los Alamos about 10 days before I introduced the bill that I will talk about here today, and I was still wondering whether the National Government ought to be involved in this area.
I ran into one of my best friends in the scientific community, and after all the heady budget talk and macroeconomic talk, he cornered me and said, “You know, all that sounds very good and it is all very important, but I hope you understand that if the United States does not get its act together with reference to math, science, engineering, and physics, and instill in our young people a desire to pursue those fields, and, in particular, find some way to stimulate good people to be math and science teachers, an awful lot of what you are talking about in terms of the American economy is not going to come into fruition, because our competitors in the world will beat us-in particular, Japan and Germany and a few others. He suggested quite firmly that we had better get with it.
Hearing that, along with 50 or 60 other experts in my State describing the serious nature of the problem, I concluded, No. 1, Mr. Chairman, that you are right on track in pursuing this effort with the introduction of your bill and holding these hearings today.
I know that the legislation which is going to eventually emerge from your committee will borrow good ideas from several science and math bills which have already been introduced. I want to just suggest that any Federal legislation should do at least the following:
It should encourage existing science and math teachers to stay in education rather than leaving for other positions. S. 248, the bill that I introduced with some cosponsors, addresses this issue through a teacher award program administered by the National Science Foundation.
Second, I think we must create incentives for more individuals to become science and math teachers. We propose a merit scholarship program for students studying to become math and science teachers. I believe this is unique among the Senate bills in this way. The House bill also contains a provision in this regard.
Third, we should allow States and local agencies great flexibility in the use of the money. Each State and each school district has unique problems. S. 248 deliberately builds on a chapter 2 block grant to promote flexibility and ease of administration.
Fourth, I think whatever bill you produce must bring the science and research communities and the education community and the private sector together to work on improving math and science education. There are many exciting things in existence by way of new technology and innovation that obviously are not being used. Somehow or another, we have to find some way to get those kinds of things into the school systems.
We attempt to do that by funneling the Federal effort through both the National Science Foundation and the Department of Education and by encouraging States to establish commissions or advisory councils with members from the scientific community, education, and private industry. While their name is the Commission on Excellence, it does not matter what they are called; we hope they serve the purpose of setting goals for the sovereign States in terms of excellence in these particular disciplines.
Fifth, we have to concentrate resources on those areas of greatest need. I know this is controversial, but no matter how much we would like it, billions of dollars simply are not available for this effort. More could be done to improve the quality of higher education, foreign language instruction, and certainly vocational education.
But perhaps it would be best to address these issues in separate legislation. For the present, in this vehicle it would be best to concentrate on directing resources into improving the quality of science and math in our elementary and secondary schools.
I introduced S. 248 with these goals in mind. There are undoubtedly many other approaches and good ideas that would be effective. I hope that the committee will carefully consider the provisions in S. 248, particularly the merit scholarship program. It might very well be from what I have learned that the merit scholarship program in S. 248 has to be strengthened and we might have to spend considerably more money in that regard.
S. 248 has been introduced, and I have had many conversations with parents, principals, teachers, and administrators on how the bill could be strengthened. With the permission of the chairman, I will submit a list of suggestions for the record that I determined in these talks and conversations.
Many of my colleagues have asked how I, as Budget Committee chairman, could propose funding a new Federal program, and I will just answer the question briefly. It is my opinion that we are moving not only into an economic recovery period, but certainly we are moving into some kind of transition with reference to our basic industry, our economic strengths, and how we are going to employ our people.
I do not think we know how all that is going to come out, but I think we do know that crucial to that transition and to the building blocks for this recovery is that we maintain preeminence in the development of high technology and leadership in science, research, math, and physics.
This type of legislation will help sustain a long-term recovery, and I think you have already expressed that clearly and I will not repeat it. No Senator is worried more about the effect of large deficits than I am, but I must say that there are things we must do in spite of that that have long-term recovery in mind and whose ultimate goal is prosperity and recovery. In this instance, I think we have to spend some money to make sure that that happens.
I want to close by just telling you, Mr. Chairman, that a couple of days ago I had a young boy in my office from a small rural school. He was up here as a Westinghouse science finalist, one of the 40 in the Nation, and I said, "Sit down for a while and let us talk.”
He is a senior in high school. I tried to find out what enthused him hecause all he could talk about was physics and research and wanting to go to MIT or Cal Tech. I found that the two things that kept him involved in science studies the first sounds very simple, but the science fairs that we have in the United States and that involve the rural schools first stimulated him. He has been a winner in that for 7 consecutive years.
Then he was quick to add that his teachers were interesting, stimulating and worked hard. Even though he was in a little rural school, he had taken every math and science course around, and I was astounded to find that they had one course beyond trigonometry in that school. They had 2 years of physics; they had 2 years of chemistry and 2 years of biology.
So, I do not think we ought to be critical. Teachers and students are really trying out there, but the basic facts are startling in terms of deficiencies, in terms of teachers leaving, and in terms of turning off young students at 10, 11, or 12 years of age who do not want to have anything to do with math or science.
So, Mr. Chairman, the challenge is serious and significant, and I am very hopeful that with your commitment and dedication, you will put together the best of all the ideas.
I would say, Mr. Chairman, that there is a long-standing and difficult problem of whether you use the National Science Foundation as it was used in the post-Sputnik scientific and math effort, or whether you go the route of the Department of Education.
I am hopeful you will find some reasonable compromise, but I do believe the National Science Foundation has to be intimately involved. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Senator STAFFORD. Thank you very much, Senator. The subcommittee certainly appreciates your appearance; I do, especially, as Chairman. I can assure you that in considering this problem, we are going to borrow from all of the good ideas that come across from the witnesses, and I can see that some excellent ones are in your proposal. They will be seriously considered.
You mentioned the Sputnik era, which reminded me of a story from that time. I was then in Vermont State government, and I remember one of the jokes that circulated at that time was about a teacher who asked her class in the sixth grade to count from 1 to 10.
One little girl, whose father worked for our space effort at the time—we had not then gotten anything in the air to rival Sputnik—said she could do it. So, the teacher said, "Go ahead," and she said, “ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, oh hell.” [Laughter.]
Senator STAFFORD. Thank you very much, Senator.
Senator STAFFORD. You have to be fairly on in years to remember that. (Laughter.]
Senator STAFFORD. Senator Hart, we are delighted you have time to be with us this morning and we would be very glad to hear your testimony at this time.
This is another instance, I would say, ladies and gentlemen, where the Chair of this subcommittee is going to pay particular attention to the witnesses because Senator Hart also shares membership on the Environment and Public Works Committee, where we have labored together for a number of years.
Senator Hart, we are very happy you are here this morning.
STATEMENT OF HON. GARY HART, A U.S. SENATOR FROM THE
STATE OF COLORADO Senator Hart. Mr. Chairman, thank you very much for your hospitality and, most of all, for holding these hearings.
For those of us who have been concerned with and, to a degree, identified with the broad range of education issues over the years and who particularly resisted for the last couple of years talk of abolishing the Department of Education and cutting funds for education, we are extremely pleased to see the number of Members of Congress now who have reawakened to the broad range of education issues and are beginning themselves not only to support measures put forward by some of us, but to introduce many of their own. I think the committee is very timely taking up that broad range of new initiatives.
We are all encouraged by this first series of hearings. We have all seen statistics indicating our children are falling behind in their learning of subjects having to do particularly with math and science and foreign language.
The Chairman and Senator Pell particularly over the years have demonstrated a concern about these areas and provided leadership therein.
We are all aware of the corresponding shortage of teachers, particularly, in these areas. Yet, we do not know the full scope of the situation, and I think these hearings will provide the base of data necessary to act.
As you know, the House recently passed a short-term, low-cost bill. Perhaps it is appropriate at this time, given increasing concern about the depth of the education problem, but I think we have to go much beyond this to some comprehensive, long-term approach. It is in that context that I am here this morning to support a measure which I reintroduced in February called the American Defense Education Act of 1983, which is essentially the same bill introduced about a year ago in the last session of Congress.
There was not any action on that bill, unfortunately, in the 97th Congress, but 12 of our colleagues have now joined as cosponsors of the measure.
I think, Mr. Chairman, you would agree with me that education is probably the best investment our Government and our society can make in its future. It is a national priority that must be reestablished and promoted by the highest levels of our Government. It is, as President Kennedy said 20 years ago, both the foundation and the unifying force of our democratic life.
Responsibility for our children's education is a shared responsibility. It rests on families, on communities, and on governments, all levels of governments. The American Defense Education Act draws on all three to meet the challenge of educating our children at a time when our Nation's economic and technological and defense needs are greater than at almost any other period in history.
The bill, as its title suggests, is patterned after the one that the chairman and Senator Domenici were referring to, or at least the period of the post-Sputnik period, the National Defense Education Act of 1958.
Today, we live in a period in which our economy is being so rapidly transformed that we can barely keep up. The transformation is probably as dramatic as it was during the industrial revolution of the 19th century. It is an economy shifting from primary reliance on heavy industry and basic manufacturing to increasing concentration on advanced and new technologies, information, communication, and services.
The opportunity for jobs and for economic growth and prosperity in this new economy depend more heavily than ever on our minds and not on our might or our muscle. Today, we have to rely on brainpower more than horsepower. And, of course, education and training is the key to that brainpower.
Unfortunately, as a country, we are failing to make the investment in education that is needed. Just when the information revolution requires all Americans to increase their competence in science and mathematics and technical skills, and when economic interdependence obliges us to master other languages to compete effectively abroad, we are letting our technical schooling erode and our foreign language studies decline.
There are some sobering statistics, according to the National Science Foundation. Between 1960 and 1977, almost two decades, the proportion of public high school students, grades 9 through 12, enrolled in science and mathematics courses declined from 60 to 48 percent in the case of science.
There has been a steady decline in the science achievement scores of the U.S. 17-year-old population, as measured in three national assessments of science in 1969, 1973, and 1977. Mathematics scores of 17-year-olds in this country declined significantly in two assessments of mathematics in 1973 and 1978. The decline was especially severe in the areas of problem solving and the applications of mathematics.
The mathematics and verbal scholastic aptitude test scores of students have declined steadily over an 18-year period through 1980. What is more dangerous is the fact that our toughest international competitors are doing exactly the opposite. They are devoting far more attention to educating their children in these vital areas.
One-half of all high school students in the United States take no mathematics or science beyond the 10th grade. In contrast, the Japanese secondary schools require nearly all the college-bound students to take three natural science courses and four mathematics courses during their 3-year high school career.