It's now the day after the DonorsChoose Challenge, and several things are clear.
First, you people rock. This blog is not one of the highest-readership blogs in the Scienceblogs network. Most months, we're not even in the top half. But there's no way that anyone would guess that looking at the final results of the DonorsChoose challenge. At the end of the challenge, we had collected over $3,300. That was the third highest total among the participating Scienceblogs, and it put us into the top 25 of all participating blogs on the interwebs. Thank you all.
Second, you people rock. Scienceblogs.com, as a whole, collected over $54,000, not counting the additional $15,000 that Seed Media will be donating in matching funds. (As of this morning, Steven Colbert and his TV viewers have kicked in $46,000.) It's obvious that Scienceblogs readers care about educating the next generation of American Scientists. Thank you all very, very much.
Third, there's more that can - and needs to be - done. And you can do it.
If this drive has taught me anything, it's that there are a lot of children in this country who don't have much in the way of opportunity when it comes to learning - particularly learning science, or even learning about why science is important to them. Funding the grassroots-level proposals is a good way to help teachers with the science education part of the problem, but we can do more. In particular, we can talk to the kids directly about science, about why we enjoy it, about why it's important to everyone. With any luck, we might even be able to convince one or two kids that this science thing is something that they really can do.
What I'd like to try to is to get as many scientists, doctors, engineers, science writers - anyone with good scientific knowledge - into classrooms as possible. Wherever possible, I'd like people to try and get into classrooms in underprivileged areas (rural or inner city) where students can particularly benefit from the exposure -- schools where the majority of kids are in the federal free lunch program, and where few will go to college. In short, the type of schools that we spent the last month raising money for.
Improving science education is important, it's something that you can help do, and here's why you should do it:
Not all that long ago, the proper term for a person who knows enough meteorology to understand why some scientists worry about the effect of increasing sea temperatures on hurricane risks, enough biology to understand the differences between embryonic and adult stem cells, and enough geology to understand the concept of a global petroleum production peak would have been "nerd." Today, the correct term is "informed citizen." It's hard enough to get people, especially kids, to care about that kind of thing under the best of circumstances. If we don't - if we continue to allow public policy on issues like climate change or medical research or whatever else to be shaped by how many people think "liberal" is a bad word, or how many are pissed off at the Republicans for getting us into Iraq - we are, as a species, well and truly screwed. (Note to international readers: no, I'm not that arrogant about America's ability to solve problems. I'm that confident in our ability to cause them.)
Volunteer. Talk to your local schools, and see what you can do to help. Janet has more on this, and I'll have more on Monday.