Monday, September 19, 2005

I.B.M. Employees: Take Two

Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat is providing great context for my English 106 course and the work we are doing to "map" ourselves as writers in the 21st century. Among the many topics Friedman addresses in his "Brief History of the 21st Century" is the declining number of American young people (grades k-12) being encouraged to persue interests in complex maths and science. Lamenting the Bush administration cuts in the 2005 National Science Foundation budget, Friedman highlights trends demonstrating a coming crisis as relates to America's ability to maintain a global "edge" in research and innovation should something not be done to turn the tables. He quotes Tracy Koon, Intel's director of corporate affairs:

"Science and math are the universal language of technology," she said. "They drive technology and our standards of living. Unless our kids grow up knwing the universal language, they will not be able to compete. We are not in the business of manufactureing somewhere else. This is a company that was founded here, but we have two raw materials - sand, which we have a ready supply of, and talent, which we don't." (Silicon comes from sand.) (272)
New York State Commissioner of Education, Richard P. Mills, speaking recently for New York state schools alone, said "New York needs more people with math and science skills to meet the growing job demand, but we need more teachers to make that happen."

In a move that marries the needs of a nation with some of the best minds in science and math the nation has to offer, IBM has launched "Transition to Teaching," a program underwriting the development of "second careers" for its retiring employees (and others who meet certain qualifications) by funding their retraining as teachers in the fields of science and math. Funding includes up to $15,000 in tuition and stipends, and employees retain their jobs with IBM while completing their coursework. The program targets public school needs in hoping to generate a supply of highly trained and newly qualified teachers, and I.B.M. officials are hoping that other companies will follow suit. "Snaps" to I.B.M. for its initiative!

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