Monday, September 2, 2013

Tennis, Football, Chess, or Science?

I know.  Chess isn't quite on the list of professions you intend to encourage your kids to take up. (But it's fun and can get her a college scholarship at a few schools!) Many of us do encourage our kids to play tennis, baseball, soccer or other sports. Nothing wrong with encouraging them to be fit. There's also an outside shot that they might be good enough to get a college scholarship. Trouble is that far too many kids are counting not just on that but also on the possibility of getting mad money in the pros. What's the trouble with that? The chances are low. After all, only a few thousand get there. So why not play a game with better odds? I'm not suggesting that they follow the advice of the Music Man and play in a band because sadly the odds aren't great there either.

Instead, on this Labor Day (just like on any other day) I'd suggest a career in science. (Shocking, I know.) The trouble is that it just doesn't seem to be in the same conversation among teens as tennis or football. Clearly science does not have the theatre of the other activities, and thus much less allure. But, a career in science (if you can at least make it to a bachelor's degree) offers a pretty good return no matter how you slice it, and a much higher yield. The question is how to bridge the gap and encourage teens to direct their energy to dreaming about being pros in science and not sports? It's hard to convince teens who see all the money and facilities being invested by cities (that build ever more lavish stadiums) and colleges (that build ever more lavish stadiums) in sports. Truth is that investments are going into science and technology, but teens don't see them because they don't get much press. Or is it that we don't generate enough press? Perhaps this is the place for us scientists to make progress on this windmill?


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