Wednesday, October 03, 2007


"Space Brains"

In the October 8 issue of Time Magazine is an essay by Jeffery Kluger called :Space Brains" about how the US "got smart" after the USSR launched Sputnik. The essay is also smart and on some levels depressing. Here is the quote that made me sad:

Within a month [of sputnik's launch], President Dwight Eisenhower named MIT President James Killian his science adviser and told him to put the nation on the scientific equivalent of a war footing. The government stressed math and science in public schools, steered college students toward science degrees, created a National Aeronautics and Space Administration and pointed it generally spaceward. Spaceward is where the country went.

Instead of fearing for the worst (world war three) Eisenhower geared up for science and discovery. He geared the country up to be SMARTER, not stronger. Can you imagine if even a fraction of what we are spending on the "war on terror" were going toward education and diplomacy? What if even just a tiny bit of that money were spent on teaching people how to speak the languages of the world, the languages of the middle east in particular, so we can, oh, I don't know, TALK to people in other countries, IN THEIR OWN LANGUAGE?

I can speak a smattering of spanish. I had 4 years in high school and 3 semesters in college. When I was in Mexico City last year for two months, I spoke it every day and learned a lot about language and humor and culture. Most people don't understand that learning another language is not just about learning different verb conjugations and vocabulary. When you think about how something is said in a different language, what idioms are used, it opens up a window to how people live, their history, their imaginations.

50 years ago we decided to become the smartest kids on the playground, and we did it. Now, it seems, we decided to be the bully. We're doing a bang up job of it too.


Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?