Remember those commercials that suggested that the best way for parents to keep their kids free from drugs is to talk to them? No?
Well, that's okay. It appears that a set of more commercials urging parents to talk to their kids about math and science is way more overdue, at least according to Intel. I'm not sure what priority should be given to commercials about children having sex.
On October 21, Intel Corporation released the results of a survey assessing parental attitudes toward science and math education. Intel found that, "that parents feel more equipped to talk about drug abuse than math and science with their children." This finding explains why "less than 40 percent of fourth- and eighth-graders are proficient in math," according to the recently released National Assessment of Educational Progress report. 
Intel reports that more than 50 percent of parents rank math or science as the subjects most critical to their children's future success. Many say that they are less involved in their children's math and science education because of their own lack of understanding of these subjects.
"The link between math and science education and American innovation and competitiveness is more apparent than ever," said Shelly Esque, vice president of Intel's Corporate Affairs Group. "Our survey points to a difficult reality for our nation's parents: While they may recognize the importance of math and science, they are unable to engage with their children around these subjects due to limited understanding of the topics and scarcity of resources to help. We need to help parents help their kids make the best choices, including taking math and science courses so they are prepared to succeed."

I can imagine many of you shaking your heads at these findings. As a parent of teens, I have found myself sharing notes with other parents about the foibles of teenagers and my own parenting idiosyncrasies. Parents everywhere are the same, it seems, and so are kids. Yet, I have noticed that parents at data center events have a different attitude about their kids and math than other parents I meet. Data center professionals often have graduate degrees in math or science, or both, and enjoy the subjects. I suspect they do a great job supporting lessons taught in school, establishing high expectations, and explaining the importance of learning math or science. In the rest of my life, I often encounter adults who genuinely fear looking foolish re-learning algebra and find it easier to make excuses for poor student performance. I think it is not hard to predict which students get the higher math scores.

Intel's study shines a needed light on student performance. It says, "Over the past decade alone, the company has invested more than $1 billion, and its employees have donated more than 2.5 million hours toward improving education in 50 countries." 
I support math and science education and have done my best to impart an appreciation of these disciplines to my daughters. It's a responsibility I think, especially in a world where math and science literacy are keys to participating in a democracy debating global warming, renewable energy technologies, deficit spending, health care reform, and dozens of other technical issues.
If the slogan yes we can begs the question how, very often science and math provide the answer. Many have bemoaned the lack of qualified new candidates for engineering jobs, and the graying of workers in data centers, nuclear power plants, and other mission critical facilities. For instance, in a recent issue of Mission Critical, Peter Curtis wrote of the need to attract the "Nintendo generation" to mission critical work. And Dennis Cronin wrote in the current issue about the need for new leadership in the industry. Having a generation drop math and science is not just a problem, it is a problem with imminent consequences for society.
More effort is needed, and it is needed now.