Letter: We need to put more toward education | AspenTimes.com

Letter: We need to put more toward education

We need to put more toward education

I have been involved in educational nonprofits in the Roaring Fork Valley for 20 years and have been teaching English composition for Colorado Mountain College for the past six years on campuses from Aspen to Glenwood Springs.

Currently, in this country, 50 percent of students entering college are below college level in math, reading and writing. This is not a phenomenon only at junior colleges or in areas of poverty. This is across the country, in all demographics, ethnicities and geographical areas. It is here in our beautiful backyard.

Education funding on the federal level was drastically slashed in the 1980s and has never recovered. With no end in sight to a dysfunctional Congress, it never will. In Colorado, the TABOR amendment continually ratchets back our ability to increase tax dollars to meet the needs of schools. In this wealthy state, we are 49th in the nation for education funding because of it. School districts are constrained by No Child Left Behind, the Common Core and standards-based education, which, as we all know, has disintegrated innovation and forced teachers to “teach to the test.” We can stand up and shake our fists at all of these contributing factors as to why our students are falling seriously behind, and I wish we would, but that doesn’t address the problem now. Right now, we have to act.

Many of my students are interested in the sciences. Unfortunately, they can’t write about what they don’t understand. My student who wrote a research paper on whole-systems engineering leaned on RMI and Amory Lovins. My student who wrote about the dead Colorado River Delta learned about this subject at a lecture by Peter McBride. My student who wrote about sustainable energy spent time with Johnny Weiss at SEI. My point is this: outside sources in the STEM fields are needed to enhance and augment our science literacy. The science center can provide the spark that builds on this knowledge and understanding.

At the Aspen Science Center, kids can explore sound, touch, light, electricity, water flow and cause and effect in chemistry and physics. They can experience things interactively, repeat the experiments and learn about science while having fun. They can build on the wow factor in the world.

The next generation has a full plate of issues to solve, and it cannot solve them without STEM. Schools and other organizations are lined up to work with the Aspen Science Center. The science center does not have a space; it is not trying to move from one space to another or to create an annex to a space it already has. Give the kids in the Roaring Fork Valley a chance to be on the right side of that 50 percent. Give the Aspen Science Center a space.

Denise Barkhurst


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