Viewpoint - April 2006
A piece in the March 2006 issue of NewsMax is pretty blunt about stating that more money will not solve our education problems. I thought the following excerpt was quite telling. "If you divide the Department of Education's figure for total spending on K-12 education by the department's count of K-12 students, it works out to about $10,000 per student. For a class of 25 kids, that's $250,000 per classroom." And so the question remains: If we currently spend more money per student than many other countries, why do they outrank us on international test scores, particularly in math and science? Maybe it is time we take back our schools from the bureaucrats.
We need strong chemistry majors for the future development of our own industry, but some of the responses we received underscore a number of current problems. One big problem is the job opportunities that are/are not available for chemists - if job opportunities are diminishing it doesn't provide a great deal of incentive for potential chemistry majors. I know too that quite often first-year college students are exposed to teaching assistants who can barely communicate.
On another note, I am annoyed and angered with the latest ruling in the Rhode Island lead paint case. This is again another example of a general public (jury) that is ignorant of some basic science and chemistry. Yes there are cases of lead poisoning in children, but there have not been many instances that proved that the source of the lead was from paint. Many kids, particularly in urban areas, have been far more exposed to lead from leaded gasoline (in the soil and dust) than they were to lead in paint. And let's not forget the lead in drinking water from old plumbing, and how about poorly glazed pottery, or leafy and root vegetables that can contain a great deal of lead that is in the soil from gasoline sources. Why don't these other sources grab the media attention?
Everyone has been very reluctant to criticize the poor housekeeping habits that allow paint chips to lay around for toddlers to ingest. Much of the lead in paint was not soluble in gastric fluids, and lead would pass through the digestive system if the proper amount of calcium and iron were present in the body. It takes educated juries and judges to reach the proper conclusions - and that, folks, puts us back to square one - we need to do something about our education in math and the sciences. I fear Rhode Island has opened a big can of worms and damage for the coatings industry, and a gold mine for the lawyers. Watch a number of other states follow suit!