Can Teens’ Tackle Future Societal Problems?

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Lemelson-MIT Program Director Merton Flemings asks, “Is this generation (of teens) properly equipped and motivated to invent solutions to these (global) mind-boggling challenges (such as hunger)?”

The Lemelson-MIT Invention Index found that teens believe they have developed in school some of the critical skills that will be needed to address these problems. Seventy seven percent believe they have learned problem-solving skills well while in school. They also feel prepared to work in teams (72 percent), think creatively (71 percent) and lead others (61 percent).

By contrast, only 32 percent of teens said they feel they learned to budget money while in school. Also, a February 2005 report by Achieve, Inc. found that 55 percent of college instructors were dissatisfied with their students’ abilities to apply what they learn to problem solving.

Most disquieting is that only nine percent of respondents chose science and only eight percent chose business as their top career choices.

“The relative lack of interest in science and technology-oriented fields is alarming,” Flemings said.

He also opined that while teens see good results in the future from inventions, few say they will try to create these inventions.

Hmm, I wonder if Flemings’ survey results reflect the extent to which our vision of education emphasizes consuming something rather than inventing something useful.

The Lemelson-MIT program offers grants for InvenTeams and other programs to encourage creative K-12 students in math, science and technologies. They also offer a page of links to a profile of an inventor of the week, an invention guide, and much more of possible interest to potential teen inventors.

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Robert Heiny
Robert W. Heiny, Ph.D. is a retired professor, social scientist, and business partner with previous academic appointments as a public school classroom teacher, senior faculty, or senior research member, and administrator. Appointments included at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Peabody College and the Kennedy Center now of Vanderbilt University; and Brandeis University. Dr. Heiny also served as Director of the Montana Center on Disabilities. His peer reviewed contributions to education include publication in [I]The Encyclopedia of Education [/I](1971), and in professional journals and conferences. He served s an expert reviewer of proposals to USOE, and on a team that wrote plans for 12 state-wide and multistate special education and preschools programs. He currently writes user guides for educators and learners as well as columns for [I]TuxReports[/I].com.