Utah, like the rest of the nation, faces a crisis because few students are being educated in math and science.
Richard Kendell, Davis school superintendent, and Lynn Blake, director of the Utah Centers of Excellence, told how lack of such technical education can be detrimental to economic development during a forum with the Davis League of Women Voters recently."Our nation faces a real crisis in terms of mathematics and science. We live in the age of science. We are dependent upon scientific knowledge and scientific expertise, but we are not very competitive in terms of our educational systems or the young people that are coming through that system," Kendell said.
Kendell said he does not believe that education should take all of the blame for the lack of technical education. He said some of the problems are rooted in American culture and the choices that students are given at school.
"The American system is primarily a system of choice, whereas the Japanese and Chinese systems are pretty much required," Kendell said. "I don't think our young people are taking the kinds of courses that are consistent with the need, certainly in the areas of mathematics and science."
He particularly noted alarm at the lack of young women in Utah who do not study math or science.
He cited Davis School District figures showing that of the district's 1988 graduates, only 5 percent had taken three math classes during high school. Thirty-one percent had taken two. Nationally, 10 million students study math in the sixth grade, but by the time students enter college, only 8,000 major in math.
Kendell said the problem could be remedied by forcing all students to take math classes, but from a public policy standpoint that probably wouldn't be the best choice.
Blake said one solution might be to change the attitudes of parents and students by showing the necessity of such technical training in the modern work force. He also suggested eliminating some educational choices.
"We can't afford to (offer so many choices) in Utah anymore."