1941: The Subject We Love to Hate
For every 1,000 students in fifth grade, 600 are lost to education before the end of high school.
—NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION1
That twenty-first-century American students perform poorly on international math and science assessment tests compared to the rest of the world should not be a surprise. For more than a century, Americans have shown little interest in, or mastery of, these subjects—especially math.
Though justifiably proud of our country's long list of accomplished inventors and entrepreneurs like Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Steve Jobs, Americans are clueless about our nation's legacy of math and science heroes. Americans continue to be awarded the vast majority of Nobel Prizes in the twenty-first century for physics, chemistry, medicine, and economics—fields that demand a solid understanding of science and math—yet the average American has no idea who these modern-day science and math heroes are.
Want proof? Ask a colleague this question: “Who is the most famous American scientist?” Most people will pause for a moment and then say, “Albert Einstein.” Technically, they would be correct. For the last 15 years of his life, from 1940 to 1955, Einstein was a naturalized American citizen, after fleeing the threat of Hitler and the Nazi Party in Germany in the mid-1930s. But Einstein, a German by birth, was educated in Switzerland; he never spent one minute sitting in an American classroom studying math or science. The U.S. education ...