Has anyone else been puzzled by the recent bevy of ads from Exxon Mobil touting the need for better education in science and mathematics? Exxon Mobil is a founding partner in the National Initiative for Science and Math Education (website HERE). I guess they had a huge wake up call when they couldn’t find enough engineers to fill jobs and they realized they need some research into clean energy production. I guess. Exxon is now on the bandwagon to right the wrong of the US falling behind in achievement in math and science.
I don’t want to criticize a good thing. Exxon is not a leading company in scientific research, in my humble opinion. They exist for commercial enterprise–they have a product that supplies a need. They do give a lot to philanthropic causes and have been a leader in promoting the arts, but this is mostly image related. Encouraging students and developing ability in math and science is a really good thing. Yes, it should have been done for years, but I will take “better late than never.” I have watched these well-done ads in recent weeks and yes, there are other energy (euphemism for oil) companies joining them. All of a sudden the bad guys are becoming good Samaritans. The ads are clever. You can view them HERE.
I found myself feeling good about the bad guys and really happy with the colorful, cute and intriguing ads. Then, I started to think about what’s up? Exxon would not be the first company I think of when I think of companies who endorse good science and promote quality education. The ad campaign serves to enlighten viewers that “Its not just U.S. leadership in energy that’s at risk—it’s also our leadership in medicine, research, technology and other pillars of the American economy.” True, yes?
So, okay, Exxon Mobil is motivated by the fact they (and the world) need many scientists, engineers and technicians to do the work they know the world will demand. They have jobs and no one to fill them. The United States has massive unemployment. We do need to help to educate the next generation to fill these jobs. There is talent out there no one may find. Students are so far behind in science and teachers don’t have the support and skills to stay current. Science is taught the same way as it was many years ago (my affinity for politeness won’t allow me to say how many years ago). Students are not motivated and teachers are not doing a good job. We need help. We need community partners and industry professionals to light the fire–for both students and teachers.
We need to imagine what will be or where we could go. We need to think about our world and clean air and clean water and preserving energy. We need to value science and discovery. It seems to me that science is getting put on the back burner in favor of allowing whatever to happen. States are not encouraging the bettering of ourselves as a society, but rather leaving the future in the hands of fate. Quality education concerns everyone. It is not political. At the same time, I will not allow those who want to undermine science to prevail. States are passing laws that denounce science. So if Exxon Mobil promotes science for their own commercial gain, I say, so be it. We can’t just drill or do fracking and expect everything to be okay. There is science needed to glean information. We need to do this right. The next generation of scientists and engineers is waiting. You don’t know who they are or what they will discover. But they will if you give them the tools.
The US is clearly behind in math and science. It may not be as bad as the statistics indicate. After all, we are a much bigger and more diverse country than most of the ones who are ahead, so the numbers need that perspective. They have figured it out so we should figure it out. We were always on top and we should be again.