Educational Rearmament

Our Nation is at risk. Our once unchallenged preeminence in commerce, industry, science and technological innovation is being overtaken by competitors throughout the world.... the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and as a people. What was unimaginable a generation ago has begun to occur- others are matching and surpassing our educational attainments.

If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves.... We have, in effect, been committing an act of unthinking, unilateral educational disarmament.

-- Glenn Seaborg, August 1991

Glenn Seaborg is a nationally recognized advocate for education, especially in Science and Mathematics. In the following articles, written about or by him, you'll discover how Dr. Seaborg earned his reputation as an educational champion.

Contributions to Education Through the Lawrence Hall of Science
by Lincoln Bergman

Dr. Seaborg's vision, dedication, and accomplishment in the field of education have made an enormous impact—and at the cornerstone of these achievements stands the Lawrence Hall of Science (LHS). LHS is a public science center, and a center for curriculum development and research in science and mathematics education.

From his initial leadership role in helping conceive of and then build the Hall as a tribute to Ernest Orlando Lawrence through intensive day-to-day involvement in many of the Hall’s outstanding curriculum and teacher programs, Dr. Seaborg has been instrumental in making “the Hall” all that it is today.

In his long service as Chairman of Lawrence Hall of Science, Dr. Seaborg has overseen its brilliant thirty-year record of outstanding innovation in science and mathematics education. CHEM Study became an internationally recognized resource under his leadership and tutelage, in close collaboration with leading chemistry educators such as George Pimentel and under the direction of David Ridgway.

Dr. Seaborg served as Principal Investigator and/or “prime mover” on many Hall projects, including ACCESS, which works directly with Bay Area school districts and IISME, with is an innovative partnership with industry. ACCESS is the Alliance for Collaborative Change in School Systems and it works with Oakland and San Francisco to strengthen the capacity of their secondary schools to prepare students from historically underrepresented groups for college. ACCESS staff work at school sites and provide a wide range of technical assistance, staff development, and student support to improve mathematics instruction. IISME stands for Industry Initiatives for Science and Math Education and it is a collaboration between Bay Area industries and the Lawrence Hall of Science. IISME places teachers in paid industry jobs during the summer where they work side-by-side with industry mentors, participate in “real world” science, and increase their knowledge of current developments in their subject areas. Teachers then take part in follow-up activities to help them transform their summer experiences into updated and enriched classroom instruction.

Notably, Dr. Seaborg has also served as Principal Investigator of the well-known Great Explorations in Math and Science (GEMS) program, directed by Jacqueline Barber, which now has a national network of over 25 GEMS Centers and Network Sites, with GEMS Leaders and GEMS Associates in all 50 states. GEMS serves as the publication arm for many of the Hall’s public education classes and workshops and now has more than 50 widely-used teacher’s guides and handbooks. It is estimated that more than 500,000 teachers and at least 6 million students have experienced GEMS activities. Dr. Seaborg also writes a column in the GEMS Network News, a free newsletter that circulates to more than 40,000 teachers and educators twice a year. Many of his columns are included on the Hall's web site. Last but far from least, Dr. Seaborg finds the time to present certificates of completion to GEMS Associates, who receive intensive training from LHS staff in the pedagogy and practice of inquiry-based science and leadership. For more information on GEMS, you are invited to explore their publications and workshop offerings at the Lawrence Hall of Science website.

Dr. Seaborg’s longstanding contributions to the Lawrence Hall of Science also include a major leadership role in evolving direction and obtaining donations for the Hall, evaluating the educational effectiveness of innovative interactive exhibits as well as many other public programs, and representing all of the diverse programs of the Hall during his many public appearances and upon accepting many awards and honors. It was thus fitting that for his 80th birthday a huge celebration was held on the Hall’s expansive plaza, with one of the most beautiful views of the entire Bay Area, for his vision and commitment to education has played a central role in bringing the Lawrence Hall of Science to its deserved pinnacle of prestige in the world of science and mathematics education.

Chem Study: A Visionary Chemistry Curriculum

One evening near the end of 1959, I was met at the Washington airport, upon arrival from the West Coast, by a zealous group who had a visionary plan to press upon me. Bradford R. Stanerson, Harry Kelly, and Arthur Roe, representing the American Chemical Society and the National Science Foundation, whisked me off to the Cosmos Club, where they described their idea for a new high school chemistry course, and persuaded me to assume the responsibility for its development. Although my heavy schedule as Chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, and numerous other commitments should have made me decline this added responsibility, the unusual circumstances of our meeting and the ardor of the group led to my somewhat bewildered acceptance. This was the birth of the project whose history is so ably told in these pages by the participants themselves.

My book, The CHEM Study Story, is a complete chronicle of the events that were set in motion by that encounter. Because of the selfless devotion and hard work of its numerous participants, the CHEM Study can be considered beyond doubt a success story.

My acceptance of the responsibility for this project was contingent on its obtaining the services as Director of my long-time friend and a master teacher, J. Arthur Campbell, of Harvey Mudd College at Claremont, California. Art immediately accepted this assignment, and we agreed that the project should have a second center at Harvey Mudd College, in addition to the one at the University of California, Berkeley. It was he who suggested the descriptive name for the project-the Chemical Education Material Study, or, briefly, the CHEM Study.

Art and I drew up a list of prospective members for a Steering Committee, every one of whom (except one who would be out of the country) accepted the invitation and gave generously of his time throughout. At the first meeting of the Steering Committee, on January 9, 1960, in Berkeley, the objectives were conceived and an approximate time schedule was drawn up.

The general objectives of the Study were to develop new teaching materials for the high school chemistry course, including a textbook, laboratory experiments, and films. The more specific objectives were to diminish the then current separation between scientists and teachers in the understanding of science, to stimulate and prepare those high school students whose purpose was to continue the study of chemistry in college as a profession, to encourage teachers to undertake further study of chemistry courses geared to keep pace with advancing scientific frontiers, and thereby improve their teaching methods, and to further even in those students who would not continue the study of chemistry after high school an understanding of the importance of science in current and future human affairs. It was decided from the first to have the course be strongly based on laboratory experiments and be applicable to all students who take high school chemistry. Another basic tenet was that liaison with the other high school chemistry project, the Chemical Bond Approach (CBA), would be set up and maintained in order to achieve maximum benefits from having two courses.

In February 1960 I wrote to the initial proposed contributors describing the project and our tentative, very ambitious, time schedule. Shortly thereafter, in a move that did much to insure the success of the undertaking, Art Campbell and I had lunch with George C. Pimentel at the Faculty Club in Berkeley and succeeded in persuading him to take time from his very productive research to serve as Editor of the CHEM Study textbook. It is just possible that my role as Chancellor helped induce a Berkeley faculty member to accept this demanding assignment. George performed with characteristic enthusiasm and did an extraordinary job.

The CHEM Study Story describes the dedicated efforts of the many contributors that led to the production of all the CHEM Study materials -the text, laboratory manual, teachers guides, instruction pamphlets, achievement tests, related monographs, and films. A measure of the project's success is the wide adoption and use of these materials in the nation's high schools and their direct and indirect influence on the content of numerous recent texts and laboratory manuals that have been prepared by many authors. Another measure is the many foreign-language translations of the written materials and films. An interesting sidelight is that the income from the materials has exceeded the support funding from the Federal government; CHEM Study is in the unprecedented position of more than paying for itself.

CHEM Study has made it necessary and possible to upgrade much of the teaching of college chemistry-an effort that is still in progress-in order to meet the requirements of the better-prepared incoming students. It has widened the interest of college and university teachers in the problems of high school teaching. And it has put many high school teachers in closer touch with their collegiate and university colleagues. The high school teachers' presence on the writing teams served to keep the materials understandable and to assure the teachability of the course.

The support of the National Science Foundation made this project possible, and the great understanding and cooperation of its representatives minimized the problems of contractual relationships. Similarly, the support and cooperation of the Regents, administration, and business office of the University of California and of the authorities of Harvey Mudd College helped to remove administrative burdens from the CHEM Study staff.

Personally, I count my own contributions to the CHEM Study effort as among the most important and rewarding of my activities during the last decade.

Washington, D.C. February 3, 1969

Letter to a Young Scientist

Dear Dianne:

I understand that you think you may be interested in a career in science. Perhaps it will be helpful if I share with you some of my thoughts on the value and rewards of such a career. I remember well the influences and considerations that led me to turn in this direction as a very young man.

My own history in this respect has both unusual and usual aspects. Up until the time I entered high school, I had no exposure to science and, therefore, little knowledge of its possibilities. I chose literature as my major subject, and l took no science until my junior year when, in order to meet the college entrance requirement, I took a chemistry course. Largely due to the enthusiasm and obvious love of the subject displayed by my teacher, Dwight Logan Reid of David Starr Jordan High School in Los Angeles, chemistry captured my imagination almost immediately. I had the feeling, "Why hasn't someone told me about this before?" From that point forward, my mind was made up. I felt I wanted to become a scientist and bent all my efforts in that direction. I have never been sorry, for I have found in science a life of adventure and great personal satisfaction.

In considering a career in science, you may ask yourself whether you really have the qualifications. You may feel-and many might try to tell you-that you need to be a genius. This is not true. While great advances have been made by our greatest minds-such as Einstein, Rutherford, Edison-the bulk of scientific discovery has been made by men and women who, while of better-than-average intelligence, were by no means in the genius category.

We have so many tasks which need doing in all phases of medicine, public health, agriculture, industry, and basic reeearch, that we cannot hope to carry them out without help from people of many levels of ability. Furthermore, many discoveries are made by men and women whose scientific effectiveness came as a result of a combination of qualities. In a particular instance, manual dexterity, special experimental technique, a freshness of viewpoint or an insight gained from past experience may be decisive. Science is an organized body of knowledge and a method of proceeding to an extension of this knowledge by hypothesis and experiment. By learning the fundamental principles, by mastering the elements of the scientific method, and by acquainting yourself with the experimental techniques available to the modern scientist, you can proceed with near certainty to significant scientific advances and to achievement which may exceed that of many mental giants of a generation ago.

My advice is this: Do not worry too much about your intelligence, about how you compare with your contemporaries, but concentrate on going as far as possible with the basic endowments nature has given you. Don't underestimate yourself. Some young people are probably somewhat more confident-or cocky-about their abilities than their years warrant, but if l may judge from my own experience in talking with young people, many lack self-confidence and are somewhat hesitant in visualizing themselves as potentially important scientists. You should have no hesitation at all about doing this. Set yourself a high goal of achievement and exert yourself to advance toward this The development of your abilities will be most marked if you strike out steadfastly for a goal which may even be high enough that you never quite achieve it.

I would like to emphasize a particularly necessary element in the makeup of a good scientist: simple hard work. Many a person of only better-than-average ability has accomplished, just on the basis of work and perseverance, much greater things than some geniuses. Such a hardworking individual will succeed where a lazy genius may fail. Some scientific discoveries are made by armchair research, but most of them require considerable experimental work and represent a lot of perseverance and perspiration, as well as a properly conceived method of attack. Many people of quite superior pronsise never have that prornise realized unless they are fortunate enough to be in an environment where they are continually prodded into activity. People differ enormously in this quality, as in other respects: Some are self-starters and have great physical endurance, some work best alone, and others are most effective in a team effort. You will have to evaluate your own characteristics and try to place yourself in the environment most likely, as a routine result, to draw hard work from you.

This matter of hard work runs counter to the trend of modern times, with its emphasis on leisure, shorter workweeks, and more leisure-time activities. I am in sympathy with these developments in society, generally, but I cannot feel that the 35-hour workweek has much relevance for a creative scientist. The greater effort expected of a scientist, however, is seldom extracted against her will. The great gift is the ability to secure employment that allows the opportunity to do work she genuinely loves; she does not work simply because it is necessary in order to live. We live in a money-oriented society, but I think that personal success in money matters is often overrated as the reigning monarch of our standard of values. I believe that every person has a deep psychological need to feel that what she is doing is of some importance, aside from the money paid for doing it.

The scientist has the satisfaction of this need built into her life, and this gives zest and motivation to her efforts over an indefinite period of time. The intellectual satisfactions, the thrill of discovery, and the sense of worthwhile effort are a rich reward and a strong stimulus to continued work. Scientists and engineers are definitely not clock-watchers. The majority of my personal acquaintances work in establishments where the doors of the laboratory are never locked and the lights frequently burn late into the night.

Scientists would feel a sense of purpose and inner satisfaction even if their efforts were not important to the world in which we live. In actuality, of course, there is no group of persons on whom society as a whole depends so heavily. Science has exciting challenges to meet. Great discoveries with great benefits to human beings everywhere are much closer than the far horizons, and the technology necessary to utilize these great discoveries for the better health and quality of life of mankind provides an immense field for your efforts. The scientific discoverer is the first to see or to know a really new thing: s/he is the locksmith of the centuries who has finally fashioned a key to open the door to one of nature's secrets. This age of discovery has changed to new frontiers in space, medicine, biology (i.e., the human genome), artificial intelligence, new sources of energy-the possibilities are almost limitless.

You can be part of it.

Glenn T. Seaborg