Saturday, February 25, 2006

The High Cost Of Winning

Does Enabling The Few Disable The Many?

George Rand, in his latest Rand-om Thoughts column, questions the value to underachieving school districts, and to the general population of students, as a whole, in "funding" Intel competitors.

The Intel Science Talent Search announced its selection of finalists month - eight out of the 40 finalists nationwide are from Long Island.

Does this mean all our students are performing well? Not quite! The students who were as finalists are the brightest and most talented in their schools. These are the ones who would have successful college careers without winning any science contests.

Often, the parents of Intel winners are immigrant scientists, engineers or doctors. It was the same this year: One of Long Island's finalists came from Russia as a youngster and both her parents are professionals at Stony Brook University.

As a former research engineering manager and university science instructor, I am appalled whenever I see stories about high school students trying to do research instead of concentrating on their fundamental education. Long Island school officials spend millions of our tax dollars to have their students win prizes in science contests.

That money would be better channeled to underachieving students.

Uniondale High School, which had an Intel finalists this year, is one of several school districts on Long Island where half the students fail to meet the state's eighth-grade English standards. Nearly 20 percent of high schools students on Long Island who were to earn diplomas in 2005 did not graduate on time.

It is unfair to the vast majority of students to set aside $135,000-a-year teachers to put the school's name in the headlines while too few students know which travels faster, light or sound.

Science teachers who are in short supply - most teachers shy away from "hard" subjects like physics and math - should not be allowed to concentrate on a few select students to the detriment of the vast majority. Most importantly, it is an injustice to allow students to attempt science research before they master the technology that only a university education can provide.

-George Rand
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Would the money invested in Intel competitors be better spent elsewhere within the school system, or are we banking on everyone's future by investing in the best and the brightest?

This reminds us of the debate engaged in during the 60s ~ Do we spend billions to send man to the moon when millions go hungry here on earth? Maybe, just maybe, the returns on that investment -- like feeding the hungry through bio-engineering techniques that grew out of the space program -- come back to us 100-fold.

Invest in the success of a single child, and you invest in the success of every child. Lift up but one soul to the light, and you enoble us all!

What's your opinion? At The Community Alliance, we'd like to know. Add your comments to this blog, and e-mail us at

1 comment:

  1. I have been saying the same for years. Let college professors teach college students and high school by high school teachers. It's all a numbers game to get more money, but are we turning out better students?