President Obama and countless reports all say that improving science and engineering literacy and ensuring a next generation of U.S. scientists and engineers are vital to our future, says Arthur H. Camins, director of the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education at the Stevens Institute of Technology, for the Washington Post. With the notable exceptions of creationists and climate change deniers, there is little opposition to making this an educational priority. However, current education policies at the state and federal levels contradict the core values of science and engineering, and are therefore likely to inhibit rather than catalyze progress. Three values are at the heart of the practice of science and engineering and are central to discovery and innovation: searching for uncertainty, recognition of ambiguity and learning from failure. Therefore, it makes sense to nurture these values in school. In sharp contrast, popular education policies ignore ambiguities in assessment data and punish failure as determined by uncertain evidence. Unless checked, the latter will undermine the former…

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