U.S. Congressman Bart Gordon talks about STEM topics at TTU

“You could be members of the first generation to inherit a national standard of living that is actually lower than that of your parents.”

That’s what U.S. Congressman Bart Gordon told Tennessee Tech University students during a recent visit he made to campus.

Part of the reason for such a possible decline, he said, is lagging performance in science, technology, engineering and math subjects of students in this country compared to students in other developed nations.

Another reason, he said, is because of “the death of distance.”

“The 20th century began by ushering in aviation. It ended with the creation of the Internet,” Gordon pointed out.

The century’s first technological advance bridged physical distances, while its final technological advance bridged personal and occupational distances, creating an essentially 24-hour workday and a global economy.

“At the drive-thru at your local fast food restaurant, for instance, the order taker might actually be working in a telecommunications office in India or some other country, and his or her job is to relay orders to the headset of the clerk at the service desk,” Gordon said.

Such situations have possibly increased since the Sept. 11, 2001, bombings of the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

“The United States has the best research universities in the world, but safety measures implement after 9/11 have kept some of the best-of-the-best foreign students out,” Gordon said.

Those students, instead, have had to look to schools in their own nations or other locations outside the United States. The quality of those schools, therefore, have started to improve in response to their recruitment of students with higher ability levels.

Gordon, who serves on the House Science and Energy and Commerce committees and the Space, Technology, Health and Communication and Internet sub-committees, outlined a proposed education plan meant to help the United States remain competitive by increasing student interest in STEM subjects.

“We have to be a more sophisticated part of the worldwide workforce,” he said. “But right now, more than two-thirds of our nation’s teachers have neither a degree nor a certification in the subject area they’re teaching.”

The plan, if approved, would create taxpayer-funded, national scholarships for STEM students.

Ten thousand scholarships are proposed for science and math majors who would promise to teach for at least five years in their respective fields. Twenty-five thousand scholarships are proposed for advanced enrichment for existing teachers.

And 25,000 scholarships are proposed for the best and brightest science, math and engineering undergraduates, with another 5,000 proposed specifically for graduate students in those same fields.

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