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National 'cutting edge' math and science agenda is latest buzz for school reform

Knox County's L&N Stem Academy opened in August 2011.
Knox County's L&N Stem Academy opened in August 2011.

On Saturday, Oak Ridge Today reported that the U.S. Department of Energy is advocating "the importance of prioritizing research into high-end mathematics to help keep the United States on the cutting edge of computing," and the recent DOE report on this matter was co-chaired by University of Tennessee professor and Oak Ridge National Laboratory research staff member Jack Dongarra who emphasized the need for "advances in applied mathematics" and for "computer scientists, applied mathematicians, and application scientists" to collaborate.

This report comes out during a pivotal point in the history of public education decision making as school systems around the nation and here in East Tennessee are shifting focus to more strategic technology integration within schools and establishing STEM schools in hopes of better preparing students with 21st century college and career readiness skills.

Following now three years after the 2011-2012 opening of the Knox County Schools L&N STEM Acamedy, new Oak Ridge Schools Superintendent, Dr. Bruce Borchers has been rallying support for a proposal in conjunction with Discovery Education this year for his agenda "to make Oak Ridge Schools 'the' Premier STEM School District in the country," according to his statement on the Oak Ridge Schools website. Borchers is also seeking to fund a 1:1 technology initiative in Oak RIdge Schools. The Knox County School System is currently piloting 1:1 programs in some of its schools this year.

Technology is critical to the workforce of today and tomorrow, and for most, it is used every day somehow relative to many areas of daily personal and career life. However, although most agree this is true, many educators and community members are wondering if this new wave of labeling schools as STEM is watering down arts and humanities education in American culture.