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For many of us teachers, January 28, 1986 was a tough day. Why? We lost one of our own. Christa McAuliffe, social studies teacher at Bristol High School in New Hampshire, perished in the Challenger disaster.
In late 1985, McAuliffe was selected from more than 11,000 teachers to venture into the great unknown. In an attempt to showcase the importance of teachers in a post-Nation At Risk educational climate, President Ronald Reagan and his team selected this New Hampshire social studies teacher to travel with six others. Their names – Francis R. Scobee, Commander; Michael J. Smith, Pilot; Ronald McNair, Mission Specialist; Ellison Onizuka, Mission Specialist; Judith Resnik, Mission Specialist; and Gregory Jarvis, Payload Specialist – will be forever etched in an historically tragic loss. However, for many of the nearly 240 million Americans, Mrs. McAuliffe’s name and photo will remain in their hearts longest.
Why? For the first time, someone who went into space was a neighbor. She was a friend. She was a regular American. She was some student's social studies teacher.
And for the millions of Americans who watched her soar into the sky, she served as a beacon of hope for a new America. She was represented an education system that sought to meet the needs of the employment force. She was supposed to help change the world. But her journey had an all too abrupt end.
For the millions of school children who tuned in to CNN or watched the news non-stop, their world was upended.
They lost a teacher.
The question today, however, is --- have we lost the lesson?
Consider how much science education has changed since the Challenger. Today, science teachers teach the theory of evolution while looking over their shoulders. We have a nearly defunct space program. Labs and dissections have been gutted out thanks to budget cuts and an over-reliance on standards and testing. We have students who have lost interest in experimentation. We have lost much of our ability to science our way through issues and to unearth solutions.
To honor Mrs. McAuliffe, we should begin by increasing our focus on science education. Teachers should be touting a new era where we reach for the stars in many different fields of study. Where we help our students solve the problems plaguing mankind today. Wouldn’t it be great to have a student who could discover:
-Sustainable energy we could use forever?
-Cures for cancers?
-If life exists on distant planets?
-Preventative care for concussions?
-Where to store carbon?
-The full neuroscientific explanation of the mind?
-The origins of the Earth?
-A way to drastically reduce health care costs?
-A proper way to meet our food and water needs?
-The path towards Mars (or other planets)?
-Among other things
Don’t doubt that these things could be changed.
Three hundred years ago, nobody would have ever imagined that we could:
-Have instant communication in milliseconds
-Not only light an entire home, but a world
-Build a city in the desert
-Live in a democratic-republic
-Heat our homes efficiently
-Build a combustible engine
-Build something off of a laser printer
-That we could have endless amounts of information and entertainment at the tip of our hands
Among other things
But it took the Enlightenment to get mankind there. It took some pretty solid scientific education and teachers to arrive at this destination.
Christa McAuliffe flew into space for one reason – to give students the hope that her flight could inspire them to change the world. The problem is both she and her mission never landed. It’s up to us to inspire our students to solve the challenging issues of our world. That way, we can call Mrs. McAuliffe’s mission one that accomplished more than could have ever been imagined.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]