(Contact Info: larry at larryblakeley.com)

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poetry http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/poetry.htm;

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essays written by Larry Blakeley http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/articles/articles_larry_blakeley.htm,

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Major Roy James Blakeley (December 10, 1928 - July 22, 1965) - USAF (KIA)

When I was young my dad would say
Come on son let's go out and play

No matter how hard I try
No matter how many tears I cry
No matter how many years go by
I still can't say goodbye

- "I Still Can't Say Goodbye," Performer: Chet Atkins

MP3 audio file/lyrics http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/songs/still_cant_say_goodbye.htm

For a larger image click on the photograph.

Thank you President Hennessy for that kind introduction. And thank you Jonathan for your leadership here at SLAC. I am delighted to be here again, and to have taken a really outstanding tour of this facility.

The close connection here at SLAC between our lab and the university has forged a powerful combination that has demonstrated a truly remarkable history of discovery.

This is a lab with a great tradition and a great future. In January the SPEAR 3 facility was opened on time and on budget. Now, we are all looking forward to the LCLS (LINAC Coherent Light Source), a revolutionary, first-of-its-kind facility, coming on line.

So to all of you at SLAC, congratulations on your past and your future.

Let me also welcome the students and teachers who are with us today, as well as those who are here to participate in the BaBar Experiment. This is an outstanding center of learning for all ages, as I am sure you all recognize.

In fact, teaching and learning is what I would like to talk about today.

Like most parents, I've noticed how fascinated my young children are with science, and how quickly they master technology that sometimes bewilders adults. Who among us has not had to turn over the set-up of a DVD player or computer to one of our kids?

They ask a lot of questions about the world around them, which is certainly where scientists start their work, and they are constant observers of nature, another clear sign of a good scientist.

I think parents have also noticed that children seem to do much more complex science and math—at least in the early grades—than when we were in school. Maybe it's just me, but it appears my children, who attend public school in northern Virginia, are simply doing more in science and math, and doing it earlier than I did.

What's more, given access to the Internet, students have an instant connection to information and details about science that was simply inconceivable a few years ago. The information is presented beautifully, it's often interactive, and it's extremely engaging. It is often more captivating than a textbook.

All this learning, of course, takes place in a nation that leads the world in basic scientific research and development of technology.

So, given that children are by nature curious about nature, given the quick start in math and science they seem to get in the early grades, and given the advantages they enjoy growing up with Internet access, in a nation that is a global scientific superpower given all this, student achievement in science and math should be off the charts.

But it isn't.

Somewhere in the process something happens. Our children lose interest in science and math, and they fall behind the rest of the world.

The evidence for this is frankly both overwhelming and troubling.

American students don't start out behind those of other countries, but they fall behind during the middle school years.

According to the Third International Mathematics and Science Study—the well-known TIMSS study—U.S. fourth graders ranked at or near the top in the world. By twelfth grade, they fell behind nearly every industrialized rival and ahead of only Cyprus and South Africa.

The 1999 study by TIMMS, which was widely reported at the time, provided a grim assessment of the decline in achievement from fourth grade on.

In eighth grade, U.S. students scored below the international average of 41 nations in mathematics.

U.S. twelfth graders performed among the lowest of 21 nations in both mathematics and science.

In advanced mathematics, the U.S. finished second to last. And in physics, the U.S. finished dead last among 16 countries.

No one believes these numbers have changed much over the last few years. And no one believes the United States can sustain world leadership in science if these numbers do not change.

That is a matter of considerable concern.

The rapid pace of technological change, and the globalization of the economy, simply demand that our workforce be literate in science and math. Now, and for the foreseeable future, it is a simple fact that work will migrate to the nation with the most skilled workforce.

Moreover, our national security depends on having access to a workforce that has highly advanced technical skills.

People with expertise in cyber-technology and the technologies that can be applied to countering nuclear proliferation, to name just two, are vital to the Energy Department’s national security mission.

In addition to these considerations, we should remember that basic knowledge of science and math is part of our common culture. Just as with basic literacy, our nation requires a citizenry that can understand, and function in, the modern world.

Of course, as this audience knows better than most, the Department of Energy has a special responsibility for the future of science in America and for a scientifically literate workforce.

We are the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences, accounting for some 40 percent of all federal funds in this area over the past decade. We manage 17 national laboratories that, together, are rightfully considered the finest set of research facilities in the world. We build and run scientific machines and experimental equipment that are the envy of every nation. And we fund research at 250 universities nationwide.

Just a month ago, I announced our plans to build the fastest supercomputer in the world that will be open to all legitimate users.

We are making this significant investment in our scientific infrastructure with the expectation that it will yield a wealth of dividends—major research breakthroughs, significant technological innovations, and medical and health advances. But we are also making this investment because we recognize that supercomputing underpins virtually everything that happens in science today.

Two weeks ago, the Department inaugurated the first of what will be annual summits dedicated to nanoscience.

More than 350 participants from industry, universities and our labs came to Washington to discuss the full range of issues surrounding the future of this new area of research. As we move to complete five world-class nanoscience research centers, our Department will offer the world the premier facilities for nanoscale research.

I've often said that the Department of Energy could just as well be named the Department of Energy and Science, given our world-class research facilities and the pivotal role we have played in supporting both basic research and technology development.

We recognize that science underpins our mission in national security, energy security, and environmental restoration. And we recognize that this mission will fail if we do not generate the human capital—if we do not create the intellectual firepower—to push science forward.

But right now, it appears that despite our grand national lab structure - despite the lasers, accelerators, electron microscopes, experimental fusion reactors, and billions of dollars in research funds - we could fail to maximize our potential.

In short, it is our responsibility to not only develop the best science facilities, but also to foster the next generation of American scientists, mathematicians and engineers. Our mission demands we confront the challenge in science and math education, and consider how the assets of this Department can best be used to address this critical issue.

This problem, of course, has been growing for some time. And though it can’t be solved overnight, it is a problem we must solve.

Our approach must be to play to our strengths - our national labs, our unmatched scientific facilities, and the people who work for DOE and its contractors.

One of our most successful programs is our National Science Bowl, where high school students from around the country participate in a variety of challenging events, including an extraordinarily difficult science quiz. This year, more than 13,000 students from more than 1,800 high schools participated in 64 regional tournaments nationwide, many supported by our labs and literally thousands of volunteers. Since 1991 nearly 100,000 students have participated.

We have found this to be an excellent way to recognize top achievement and to promote science in school.

We recently added a Middle School Science Bowl, because we think these are the grades that need the most encouragement in science and math. It’s turning out to be a great success, like its high school counterpart.

Each of our program divisions at DOE sponsors internship programs, such as the Mickey Leland Energy Fellowship, in which students from Minority Serving Institutions or community colleges are brought to our labs for intensive research experiences. This helps them boost their skills, and it helps us because we can encourage them to consider careers in the federal government.

Each of the DOE labs has its own way to reach out to the community and promote science and math education.

Thomas Jefferson Lab in Virginia, for example, has what is called the BEAMS program, Becoming Enthusiastic About Math and Science, which targets at-risk middle school students with science education programs at the lab. BEAMS is a proven success.

Students who participate in this program do better in the state’s standardized science test than those who have not participated.

Argonne Lab in Chicago has its Rube Goldberg Machine Contest in which students are challenged to build the most complicated machine possible to select, mark and cast an election ballot in at least 20 steps. And no, the winner did not design the ballots in Palm Beach, Florida.

Brookhaven has a contest to build an advanced vehicle design; Berkeley and other labs send scientists to local schools to teach and promote science. And then there is the remarkable story of the Northern New Mexico Math and Science Academy. This is an ambitious, collaborative effort involving the Los Alamos lab, that has energized students, teachers, parents, and school board members by substantially improving student test scores in math and science.

And similar efforts are under way at other labs.

All of these programs are laudable.

But they are not enough, because the risks of our nation being insufficiently competitive in science and technology in the 21st century are too great for business as usual.

That is why today I am announcing a new DOE initiative called STARS: Scientists Teaching and Reaching Students.

This is a bold series of projects which we believe will have a very significant impact on the challenge we face.

First, we will address what is perhaps the most vexing problem in student success in science—the steady decline in achievement after the 4th grade.

Starting today, I will be directing each of our labs to design and execute a new program aimed at bringing 1,000 fifth graders and 1,000 eighth graders to their sites each year for math and science appreciation days, with the goal of exposing a broad range of students at an important time in their lives to the exciting possibilities of science.

In this way, we will reach some 34,000 fifth and eighth graders each year and begin to capture and secure their natural interest in science.

Each of our labs has the ability to make science days like this an enormous success.

Imagine science day at SLAC, where you can introduce children to SPEAR 3, the LINAC, and some of the finest scientists in the world.

We will also work with our partners in government who have science facilities, such as the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, to join us in this effort. And we will encourage businesses that have corporate laboratories to open their labs to this age group that is somehow falling through the cracks when it comes to education in science and math.

Second, we will create, for the first time, an Office of DOE Science Education. This office will be led by a senior executive, who will have the responsibility to focus and coordinate DOE-wide education efforts. This new office will work with our labs, other government agencies, and the science community to help us understand how best to use all the Department’s resources to boost student achievement in science.

Next, we will upgrade and promote the successful “Ask a Scientist” Web site now available only through the Argonne Lab home page.

This excellent resource for students—and teachers—provides a forum for basic or complex questions about science that are screened by teachers and answered by scientists. The site has an unending array of wonderful questions: Would my pinewood derby car go faster if it weighed more? How fast are we moving in space? Do dolphins have ears? And this one: Suppose you have a plane with a 2,000 pound weight limit and you stuff it with more than 2,000 pounds of pigeons and the pigeons all begin to fly in the plane, could you still take off?

Beginning today, we will provide a link to Ask a Scientist from the DOE home page, and I am asking each of our labs to provide experts to help answer questions. We will also improve the software, add services, and promote it aggressively so teachers and students from around the country know about it and can use it.

Fourth, starting this summer with a pilot program, we will bring K-12 teachers to seven of our national labs for extensive training with scientists and engineers with the goal of improving their knowledge of science and their ability to teach. Each teacher will be given a stipend to buy equipment for their schools so they have better tools to do their jobs.

Our hope is to mentor these teachers so they will become role models within their own schools and school districts.

The President has called for a qualified teacher in every classroom. But we know that many math and science instructors do not have as much training as they themselves would like. Our program will begin to help address this need.

Fifth, I will ask our labs to send their scientists out to local schools - and especially to at-risk middle schools - to provide hands-on experience in science classes and to discuss career opportunities with students. Several of our labs already do this, and we know it can be an effective way to enhance learning and inspire interest in science.

Sixth, DOE will take advantage of our own scientific leaders, including Nobel laureates, and craft ways to better draw attention to their accomplishments and hold these scientific superstars up as role models.

We live in a world where entertainers and sports heroes enjoy celebrity and fame for what they achieve. As a result, young people are inspired to take up things like sports, music and acting. I believe it’s time we start putting our science leaders on the same footing as other celebrities. We must do this not only because their achievements are so important, but because such focus will help us to encourage children to want to learn science and math, in addition to tennis and basketball.

Seventh, this fall, DOE will host the first of what we expect to be yearly EXPOs entitled, “What’s Next?” These events will highlight the most exciting new areas of science and technology that are being studied in the U.S., and around the world. The audiences will include scientists, the media and business people, but the emphasis will also be on those target-age groups of students I’ve mentioned.

Our goal is to get Americans, especially young Americans, better acquainted with the wonders of science, and to pique their interest in what makes these wonders possible.

At a minimum, these events would have the same effect as, for instance, an expo of the electronics industry: they will stimulate kids to want to take part in the newest technologies. But we don’t just want to get the next generation of consumers excited. Our aim is to encourage the next generation of creators—the innovators, designers, and engineers of new science and technology.

I believe the “What’s Next” program will be an excellent way to do that.

These are the actions this Department will take right away to respond to the challenge I have outlined. But even as we launch this series of initiatives, we want to find ways to increase of our chances of success.

That is why I have asked Peter McPherson, the chairman of my advisory board, to reach out beyond the Department of Energy, and impanel a blue-ribbon committee of Americans to recommend additional ways to improve science and math education.

I want this group to take a serious look at what we are doing now, and to consider what future steps need to be taken by this Department and its labs to advance this effort.

It will draw from scientists and mathematicians, from thoughtful education specialists, from business leaders, and from those who know the problem first hand … our teachers.

The task force will be asked to report to me with findings and recommendations by the end of the year.

We know that we have a serious problem in this nation with how we educate children in math and science.

We know our children begin with gifts of curiosity and enthusiasm.

And we know that for some reason we do not do enough to nurture those gifts as our children grow up.

Science and math, of course, aren’t easy. A career in science, as this audience is well aware, is full of very hard work and challenges.

Still, we must do more to boost basic scientific literacy in this nation and to encourage lifelong study and careers in science and technology.

The steps I’ve outline today are really first steps. But I think they are the necessary groundwork for success. That groundwork will be strengthened by people like those in this audience who understand this problem and have the will to do something about it.

I ask you now for your support for this effort, and for your guidance on how we can best maintain the United States’ preeminent role in science, math, and technology.

Thank you. - "Speech to the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center," Palo Alto, California, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, U.S. Department of Energy http://www.er.doe.gov/, July 8, 2004. http://energy.gov/engine/content.do?PUBLIC_ID=16144&BT_CODE=PR_SPEECHES&TT_CODE=PRESSSPEECH