When I was a kid I needed a tachometer, a timing light and a wrench set to tune my car. Today’s vehicles are so complex that much more specialized equipment than this is needed to gain a toehold on engine maintenance.
When I was a kid I put together Heathkits and learned about amplifiers, television and radio electronics by reading the step-by-step manuals, soldering the components, applying power and hoping that I didn’t see smoke.
When I was a kid the gap between the design of technology and the use of it was small enough so that my friends and I could admire the design – and even do design – at a young age.
That gap has grown inexorably in just a generation as electronics, sophisticated mechanics and materials have rendered the observation of design to such an incredible microscopy or enormous complexity as to be impossible for the young to comprehend, much less master. Excepting those extraordinarily bright and inquisitive children, most of our young are being denied the privilege of learning and understanding practical science and engineering, simply because the technology that we can put our arms around is way beyond our ability to experiment with it. It is small wonder that so many students fail science and mathematics. They can’t ever apply it.
Science and mathematics abilities are rapidly defining the distinction between societal haves and have-nots. If we can’t instill technology learning into our children, how do we prevent ourselves, as a society, from becoming even more classed than we already are?
How does anyone who is missing the drive to get through the fundamental yet complex learning curve even consider a future in science or engineering?
Our country’s economic gears will fall off if we can’t solve this problem.