While much of the final presidential debate of 2008 focused on how the candidates’ tax and health-care policies would affect aspiring small business owners like "Joe the Plumber," one of the most important questions of the evening touched upon the issue of science and math competence among American students, reports Wired News. Debate moderator Bob Schieffer noted that although the United States spends more per capita on education than any other country in the world, math and science competence among students up to the 12th grade lags most of their peers’ competence in the rest of the world. He wondered what the candidates would do about it. Both candidates segued into general education policy prescriptions during the 90-minute debate at Hofstra University in Long Island, New York, on Oct. 15. Generally, Barack Obama wants to invest more money into the system while at the same time reforming it. John McCain wants to overhaul the entire system and bring more competition into the market for schools. But both of the candidates had actually answered the question late this summer when they responded to questions about science and innovation policy from a group called Science Debate 2008.
McCain’s answer on Oct. 15 was consistent with the one he provided to the organizers. In a questionnaire, McCain said he wanted to boost innovation in the United States by growing "public understanding and popularity of mathematics and science by reforming mathematics and science education in schools." Obama, for his part, provided a more detailed suggestion. Among other things, he proposed to create incentives to bring more teachers into the system by providing scholarships and grants to undergraduate and graduate students who commit to teach at high schools. He says he would prioritize math and science teachers…

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