I read some wonderful books when I was young (can't find them now - probably too hazardous or something), and had some outstanding science kits, particularly anything with Gilbert or most things with Archerkit/Science Fair from Radio Shack on the box...I agree. If you are born with the passion, you will have it forever :-) But...
I read the article and saw this: "Gillibrand added that her proposals would be funded largely with tax incentives and grants, and that the nation's priority should be education for jobs of the future."
I just have to ask...what if you educate for those jobs and they are not there? We see the beginnings of it now. There is a little bit of chicken-and-egg problem, since her stated goal is "...pumping up the number of students who choose science and engineering as a career, in order to create and compete for jobs." What, you have to go through the rigors of an engineering education AND come up with your own job??? Sounds a little harsh :-)
(We do absolutely need to treat STEM as a national and strategic resource, but this seems an overly simplistic approach...)
Almost all kids love to do what we fancifully call engineering. The curriculum needs to draw all kids into projects where kids can discover their creative or collaborative talents and simultaneously develop an appreciation for math as a useful tool. This requires teachers be given training and then the leeway to use it.
Humans engineer, its what we do. Some other animals use tools but, as far as I can discover, we are the only critters that actually design and build tools. Trying to keep humans from engineering is like trying to keep a shark from swimming.
That said, getting students to follow careers in science and engineering isn't an educational issue, its an employment issue. There was a government study, back in '02 or '03 that actually pointed this out. Obviously no one has read it because everyone still thinks schools need to address this issue.
The reality is that, over the past 4-5 decades, science and engineering professionals have become less and less respected, our jobs are unstable and our salaries have not kept up with inflation (by any measure).
Todays students see this and they are not dumb; why go to the effort of getting a degree in a rigorous discipline when it is easier to get one in, say, finance, get more respect, make more money and the position is no less stable?
Bring back a culture where engineers are well respected and well compensated and watch students return to these disciplines.
If you weren't at ESC Silicon Valley, check out this clip we justed posted from Steve Wozniak's keynote where he talks about education:
He taught secretly for years in a local school to give back something other than wads of cash.
There is no harm introducing enginnering to KG levels. But simaltaneously introduce all other sciences together then the teachers can easily see the kids hidden talents and suggest their parents to guide them in those particular areas
Sounds like we all came up through similar backgrounds and fortunately survived. A kid with a technical aptitude will demonstrate it early if given a chance.
I can still remember at the age of 3.5 peering into the holes in the bottom of my older sister's 78 RPM record player and wondering what made that pretty orange glow (35Z5 and 50L6); watching while a tech friend of my father replaced tubes in the living-room radio while my older sister informed me that the strange-looking thing down below was the "loudspeaker"; and my Dad and I every morning setting our watches (mine was a M. Mouse type) to the WWV shortwave time signal. And was fascinated by the turntable, it was easy to see how that worked.
The Meccano and Erector sets also taught one how to use a screwdriver and wrench. One of my other "toys" as I got a bit older was a see-through-plastic model of a 4 cylinder internal combustion engine that I could repeatedly dis-assemble and re-assemble. It had a front crank and moving parts, including the camshaft and valves. Miniature lamps represented the spark plugs and glowed in turn to simulate ignition.
Other toys were an operating steam engine (fill the boiler, light the fire, and watch the flywheel spin around), chemistry set, electronic sets, microscope, and telescope. But it was pre-kindergarten when the scientific and engineering interest first manifested itself, and I will always be thankful to my parents for buying those engineering-type toys.
Engineers are engineers since birth. I too, started mucking around trying to figure out how things worked from the time I was 4 or 5 years old, so did my husband, who was 3 when he first tried to follow the electrical wire in his house to see how it turned on the kitchen lamp (we are both EEs).
But if you're not an engineer, regardless of when you get educated as an engineer, you'll never truly grow up to be one.
I agree that one should not push kids to become what they want them to become, let kids themselves decide what they want to do once they become adults. Thats one reason i always admire American culture where they dont put any pressure on anyone to do what they want them to do. but looks like things are changing. Althogh this is quite common in Asia where parents decide their kids to be only doctor and engineers, i thought Americans think differently. But sure kindergarden is way too early to even think about this.
Engineering education starts at least as early as kindergarten, if not earlier. Stacking blocks and plastic colored donuts lead to Lego sets, and so on.
I too had an Erector set as a child, probably a few years after kindergarten, and this was certainly my first experience in using a screwdriver and learning "lefty loosy, righty tighty", and in using batteries & electric motors to make things move.
While still in my grammar school years, my parents gave me an interesting electronics learning kit -- something they probably picked up on a whim for $20 at a hobby store -- with which I learned to follow the directions and make Morse Code audio beeper circuits, an AM crystal radio receiver and lots of other neat stuff.
This was all just fun and games at the time, long before I realized that people actually made a living messing around with circuits, and that this might actually be a career choice I should consider.
Taking apart a telephone to see what made it ring -- back when those were owned by the phone company and NOT to be tampered with -- is another fond childhood memory for which I think I was grounded for at least a week.
The point is, kids are never too young to start learning how things work and why. Many of us were learning engineering long before we knew what engineering was, or that we even wanted to know what it was or do it for a living.
And despite the danger, we all experimented with sticking metallic objects in AC outlets, probably before age 6, and learned a lesson or two in the power of electricity to make you feel really uncomfortable for a short period of time :)