Richard Swerdlow: Thank a Science Teacher

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 (Richard Swerdlow)

The high-speed freeway to the development of effective COVID vaccines was built in humble classrooms where the basics of science are taught to young students. Richard Swerdlow has this Perspective.

As this terrible year lurches toward its end, there is finally some good news. Vaccines will soon be available to help end the coronavirus pandemic which has sickened and killed millions around the world.

And as a public school teacher, I think we all owe a thank you to science teachers.

Because more than anything, the COVID vaccines, developed in only a matter of months, show the value of science education.

Science education may not make news headlines, but what happens in these classrooms doesn’t stay in these classrooms. STEM programs in science, technology, engineering and math are one reason the U.S. remains the global leader in software and internet innovation, medical research and space technology.

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But we may not remain the leader much longer. Government budgets have been ravaged by the pandemic, along with the rest of the economy, and school districts face steep cuts. When schools return to in-person learning, new costs for safety and sanitizing will leave less money for instruction. The proposed federal education budget for 2021 reduces funding by 8.4 percent. Without high quality science programs in our public schools, the United States could lose our competitive edge to countries with better science education.

Science classes are more than just microscopes and science fairs. Critical thinking and problem solving skills in science education are shown to increase achievement in literacy, math, even the arts. Most people who decide on a science career report getting interested at a young age by science programs in school.

Science education has brought us breakthroughs like the moon landing, gene therapy and the internet. And now, science education will bring us out of this pandemic nightmare.

Well-funded schools with robust science programs are good for our students, and good for our bottom line. And one more good thing they might save your life.

With a Perspective, I’m Richard Swerdlow.

Richard Swerdlow teaches in the San Francisco Unified School District.