OK, I’m now back home from traveling. My most recent travel was to Iowa, where I was hosted by Dr. Paul Bartelt of Waldorf College, an ELCA school in Forest City, IA. I was there to do an interview on “intelligent design”.
I arrived Monday to find Iowa under pervasive fog and drizzle, so I had a 2.5 hour drive in a bubble of limited visibility. I got very little sense of what Iowa might look like during the drive to Forest City. What I found is that my mind interpreted the unseen countryside as having dense forest just beyond the fog. The drive back dispelled that notion.
On Tuesday, we had the interview, which I think went pretty well. This is the first time that I was interviewed for an extended period on videotape. It is now all in the editor’s hands.
Following the video session for me and Dr. Ayers, Dr. Bartelt and I went out for a bit of a hike at a park near Forest City, going to the Pilot Knob observation tower built by the CCC and a floating sphagnum moss bog. The weather had turned cooler than the day before, with scattered and intermittent drizzle. Paul gave me a hand by carrying my camera bag for most of that walk. The observation tower was well-sited, permitting one to see quite a bit of Hancock and Winnebago counties, IIRC.
The weather turned much cooler overnight. I was worried about a predicted ice storm that might hit Des Moines, so I was up at 5 AM and on the road by 6:30 AM. While we had sub-freezing temperatures outside, it was clear all the way down to Des Moines, so I arrived well ahead of my scheduled flight time. I had more time, even, because that flight was delayed.
The flight eventually left for Denver. Unfortunately, by the time I arrived in Denver, my connecting flight had departed. I was rebooked on a later flight. The flight became later and later, as delays were added to it. An hour after its scheduled departure, we left on the leg to Oakland. I had a nice chat with an accountant who had immigrated to the USA from China some twenty years ago. She was very concerned about the state of education in the USA and what it would mean for her child to grow up here. She had visited China not long ago and seen how seriously they took education and the use of competition for careers to motivate people to excel in their educational opportunities. Where will we be in another twenty years if the USA does not make an organized response to the challenge that China and other countries, such as India, will make to gain technological and economic supremacy in the world markets? I didn’t have an answer for her, but it certainly is a sobering thought.
I’ve noted before that in 1957 we got a spectacular wake-up call in the form of the Soviet Sputnik satellite launch. That galvanized the citizenry of the USA and caused us to beef up science and technology education and opportunities. We accomplished a lot with the spur of the Sputnik event that told us, “If you don’t excel in techology, others won’t stay behind long.” We may not get an event like Sputnik to tell us that we are in deep, deep trouble this time around. We may lose our technical edge by complacency while other countries coordinate and encourage scientific and technological excellence from their students and companies. No technical edge means no economic edge and the end of “superpower” status for the USA. Given our recent foreign policy of thumbing our nose at most of the rest of the world, I think it would be naive to assume that there would be much sympathy for the plight of a declining USA. I do what I can to protect the integrity of science education. It will take more, I think, to get to the complete answer of re-imagining and re-working the socio-economic factors that would once again make science and technology a national priority here.