Wednesday, February 15, 2012

If Our Nation Was More Like Spartan Nation

Some people may have tuned out upon reading in the local Durham newspaper recently that STEM, the model that Southern High School will transition to that model next year, refers to education in science, technology, engineering and math.

A few may have connected the dots to a report delivered this month to President Obama which recommends that the nation produce 1 million additional college degrees in those areas.Southern nation

The proposal may be destined for partisan gridlock, however, given that only 6% of scientists affiliate with the Republican Party according to a Pew study Which also reports that nearly a third of scientists are political Independents.  More than half of all scientists affiliate with the Democratic Party.

Of the third who are Independents, 6% of those lean Republican, while 81% lean Democrat.  It is clear that as the Republican Party has increasingly moved to the far right, it is shedding not only moderates but scientists as well, leaving it in an echo chamber of confirmation bias with little or no empirical voice.

Ideologically 9% of scientists are conservative, 35% are moderate and 52% are liberal.  As the Republican Party becomes increasingly ultraconservative and white and male, it is easy to understand why the Gallup Poll found that 29.6% of that group are “climate change deniers” compared to just 7.4% of all adults.

But many who read about the change occurring at Southern High here in Durham may have failed to noticed that the four specialized academies at the redesigned school will include include one called the School of Business Management and Sustainability.  It is fitting that Kenneth Barnes is the principal at Southern.

Kenneth was in management when I first met him and became friends nearly 2 1/2 decades.  At the time he worked at a Durham company that manufactured test tubes among other things.  Before finding her passion in community relations for the local television station, his wife Monica and I worked together at the time to jumpstart Durham's official community-destination marketing organization.

When the company close the facility, Kenneth lost his job and seemed to lose his way for a while.  I saw Kenneth frequently as he tried his hand as an entrepreneur in a business somewhat related to farming an area close to his heart from when he grew up down east.

Then Kenneth zeroed in on his true passion.  He returned to school  and added a teaching certificate to his bachelors degree in business administration.  He became a great math teacher while earning his master’s degree in school administration.  He was a doctorate candidate the last time our paths crossed a few years ago.

Kenneth has a perfect blend of backgrounds to lead SHS in this transformation.  He will definitely understands the importance of business management as part of a career in STEM areas.  I just wish he and his program could have been around to have an influence on those Americans who seem so estranged from science today as adults.

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