November 23rd, 2009
01:15 PM ET
4 years ago

Obama announces campaign to promote math, science education


Washington (CNN) - A conversation last week with South Korea's president showed President Barack Obama the stark difference between how Asian nations and the United States value education.

Announcing a new Educate to Innovate Campaign on Monday, Obama said America needs to restore the nation's leadership in educating children in math and science to meet future challenges.

He told how President Lee Myung-bak explained that demanding parents are South Korea's biggest education problem.

"Even if somebody is dirt poor, they are insisting that their kids are getting the best education," Obama said Lee told him, sounding almost whimsical in describing his counterpart's biggest education problem as parents wanting excellent schools for their children.

Back home, Obama said, a major challenge is to revive the interest, opportunities and abilities of U.S. students in math and science.

American students rank 21st in science and 25th in math compared with students around the world, he said, putting the country at a disadvantage on vital issues such as medicine, energy and security.

The Educate to Innovate Campaign seeks to bring together teachers, parents, businesses and even the Sesame Street gang to promote math and science learning, Obama said.

So far, the private sector has committed $260 million to the campaign, and corporate giants including Intel, Xerox, Kodak and Time Warner Cable have signed on, the president said.

Specific programs include a two-year initiative on Sesame Street to teach kids about math and science, an after-school program focusing on robotics, and a national "lab" day to provide millions of students with hands-on scientific learning, Obama said.

Students will "have the chance to build and create, and maybe destroy just a little bit," to learn the joy of making things, rather than just consuming things, he said.

In addition, the White House will hold an annual science fair to publicize the top achievements by scientists, Obama said. Noting that championship sports teams get invited to the White House, he said leading scientists should "stand side-by-side with athletes and entertainers" to encourage interest in young people.

The goal, Obama said, is "expanding opportunity for all Americans in a world where education is the key to success."

Referring to his conversation with Lee, Obama noted the "hunger for knowledge, an insistence on excellence, a reverence for science and math and technology and learning" in Asia.

"That used to be what we were about," he said. "That's what we're going to be about again."

soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. Meh

    How could someone NOT like this President?

    November 23, 2009 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  2. Chandler

    This is a wonderful program!! Education has not been funded properly, or made a priority in our country for so many years. It is time to stop the decline, as it has a great impact on the future of our country. It is so great that he is trying to generate excitement about education, especially math and science.

    November 23, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  3. Republican: I only help those who can already help themselves

    If you can't believe that a person can take this article and turn it into a negative you haven't met an American yet.

    I'm sure it will go something to this effect: "We can't spend money on education, it's the worst thing to do in a recession." or "Mr President, we have more pressing matters to deal with than the education of our children."

    I'm waiting.....

    November 23, 2009 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  4. KMAN

    There he goes again pushing his socialist concept of higher education ... now, how on earth are our kids going to become REAL AMERICANS if they're pushed into learning something?

    November 23, 2009 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  5. Tim

    So to raise the scores, Obama pledges to make the tests easier so that those who couldn't qualify under the old rules can now qualify and not be left out.

    November 23, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  6. Jeff Spangler, Arlington, VA

    He also said that math and science should be placed "on an equal footing" with athletics and entertainment, a veiled reference to the unrealistic fantasies among kids with these "opiates of the people". He should have cited the odds of ever making a living in these fields versus the odds of being poor or in prison if you don't have at least a high school diploma. By the time he leaves office in 2012, you'll likely need a college degree.

    November 23, 2009 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  7. gigi

    Hello guys, I want to leave some comment on the killing at the canal and on Afganistan.

    I believe that the American soldiers are heros and we American should not betray them. they do not belong in jail. please congress stand up and fight for those innocent soldiers who are protecting us from insurgents.

    to win the war in Afghanistan, authorities should require afghan to leave all those remote areas where the insurgents are concentrated. then , the insurgents can no longer hide or mix with the afghan poplulation. once the insurgent are isolated then, it is easy to fight them. and must of all bring our heros soldiers home

    November 23, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  8. Jake

    oh no! he wants to educate our children!!!???

    but they will all grow up and not vote Republican! sounds like Socialism to me!

    November 23, 2009 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  9. Bob in Pa

    Education is 9 times out of 10 the key to success. The biggest problem is parents in the US insisting on their kids having excellent schools, but never willing to insure that their kids fulfill their half of the bargin. Better schools start at home.

    November 23, 2009 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  10. Chicagoan

    This is an important step that recognizes the importance of restoring fundamentals. Thank you, Mr. President, for having long-term vision.

    November 23, 2009 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  11. Kevin B

    Hey !! Lets all bash President Obama for promoting education. It must to be a "socialist take over" of education, isn't that right; fellow wing nuts............and tea baggers.

    November 23, 2009 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  12. Mike, Albany

    This is the kind of leadership we need and HAVE needed for the last decade. As a scientist born, raised, and working in the U.S. with a Hirsch index of 40 at age 44, the Bush years were a constant struggle for federal funding and for talented graduate students. Obama's vision is the right one for American competitiveness. This being said, and in reference to the next Ticker article, if this country is ever dumb enough to elect Sarah Palin, I'm taking my expertise in computational biophysics and energy technologies and moving to Canada because a Palin presidency would mean the end of scientific and technological development as well as an end to enlightenment, in general.

    November 23, 2009 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  13. Bob in Pa

    I suppose BOs next move will be nationalized schools where children are taken from their homes and re-educated to be lil Obamabots all in the name of better education.

    November 23, 2009 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  14. felicia

    You keep going President Obama don't let these weirdo's get you down you push your agenda all the way through. I'm fired up and ready to go! (DEATH TO THE REPIGS) Obama 2012

    November 23, 2009 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  15. Cynt

    great idea Mr President. Now I know all the President Obama haters are going to find something else THEY think the President should be doing but what else can you expect out of a bunch of ignorant people who only know hate. so since your morons are only going to criticize the President anyway, lets keep talking about all the many things he's trying to do for our children let alone our country.

    Now what is really laughable is that idiot palin. The most annoying clown on the planet. her voice alone makes me sick.

    November 23, 2009 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  16. Eric

    Why would Obama's America care about an education anymore, the government will have everyone on the dole by 2013. Besides, affirmative action has destroyed the idea of achieving success based on merit.

    November 23, 2009 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  17. More of CAMPAIGN

    Obama's fovorite passtime...campaign..campaign.."Yes we can" go down the drain.....with Obama we surely can...!!!!::::::::::::"""""""""""?

    November 23, 2009 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  18. Dar

    Odumbo is so far out of his mind, God bless you for trying to help with education but YOU must work on what is broken here and now before reaching out and starting new programs that we cant afford right now.

    Stupid idiot, get you head out of your butt and get us our jobs back! This will fix most of our problems as we would begin to start spending again and then more taxes would be paid so you can keep spending like a fool and his money.

    November 23, 2009 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  19. seebofubar

    How stupid do you think we are Obama? There is no way that the education system in this country will be fixed unless the labor unions are removed from the system. Teachers have one of the strongest lobbying organizations in the nation and they don't lobby on behalf of the students. Theacher's unions are only interested in one thing, getting more bebifits for teachers while having less contact time with students. Democreat LOVE labor unions, so if you really want to help students, divorce yourselvs from these selfserving organizations and start helping students instead of lining the teachers pockets.

    November 23, 2009 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  20. Richard Nagle

    Teach them math, that's GREAT! They can then figure out how much a trillion dollars is, and how their country's debt is unsustainable.

    November 23, 2009 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  21. George

    He is finding out what many of us have known for years. Go to any College or University and that is all you see in the math and science classes, Asian students. They also scoop up most of the scholarships because our kids can't compete. We don’t recruit good teachers because we can’t pay good teachers. Instead we take teachers that are willing to work for unless or are just to tired to teach because every time they show some skills in teaching and the students are learning we take money away from the school system. Its easy money when the state needs money. If we went in to the school system today and taught like we did years ago none of our students would pass. That is a shame. If we want good students in math and science then we have to pay teachers better and support them and don’t pull the rug out from under them. Support and give them what they need to produce the type of students we are looking for.

    November 23, 2009 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  22. southerncousin

    This will be screwed up by the NEA. They have thwarted or screwed up every inititative to improve education in our society since the 60's, They are a liberal union and like all unions are devoted to getting as much money from their employer for doing as little poor quality work as possible. We would be much better if we subcontracted or outsourced the education of our young, rather than give the money to this greedy bunch of dope addicts.

    November 23, 2009 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  23. Matt

    Again, he says the right thing. Unfortunately, his solutions have been and will be to throw other people's money at it AND force people to follow it.

    (what is up with all the crazy astroturf liberal posters on this site. Come on, study out the issue and think for yourself)

    November 23, 2009 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  24. keithc

    we have to stop Obama and his socialist programs, especially in education. Socialist education will only lead our great country to ruin. We should be learning in churches, not schools, where liberal ideals are subjecting our children to unspeakable ideas.

    November 23, 2009 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  25. trying to be reasonable in West Virginia

    Anyone here old enough to remember the 1957 scare Sputnik gave us? The whole nation, including our (Republican) president decided to take some action to improve science and math education.

    I wonder how long it will take Obama's critics to denounce this initiative as a wrong-minded, socialistic, intrusive assault on our freedoms by indoctrinating our babies . . . or maybe they'll just call this another instance of Bush-bashing . . . or this is another instance of his ego-driven grandstanding . . . or . . . . Frankly, it's hard to know what to expect. But what is certain is that most of the criticism won't be rational. Not on THIS topic.

    Start the timers.

    November 23, 2009 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
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