THE BLOG
06/10/2010 11:58 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Attitude for Aptitude

The Smerconish Show from 6/9/10 talked about a Manhattan Project to get us off oil. Something along the lines of small businesses locating in Silicon Valley and mixing up potions to destroy the oil-based crack pipe.

I agree with parts of the idea we need to get off the pipe, but I think we need to do it differently.

The Manhattan Project was one of the most top-secret projects of WW II. Probably next to Operation Overlord, it had the if-I-tell-you-what-I-am-doing-I-will-have-to-kill-you tag. It was a black budgetary hole that resources were rightly poured into. Some other cloistered eggheads finding the way to crack this puzzle.

A better analogy is Sputnik. A decade and a half after The Manhattan Project the USSR launched Sputnik. It was a slap in the face to the American Education, Research and Development (R&D) structures. Ike's response was to ramp up math and science to meet this challenge. It was everyone's problem - everyone's responsibility. (Just like today's energy issue.)

The end result of Sputnik was NASA and the moon. We did not have the tools or the intellectual basis to create NASA without the full reaction to Sputnik. Along the way we found tech R&D side effects gave birth to today's computer industries and the internet.

Today, and 30 years ago, we have had the largest challenge of mankind placed at our feet. The ripple effect of our addiction to energy has turned the Gulf of Mexico into an unflushed toilet.

  • Our resources are being used up at alarming rate.
  • Our manufacturing has been outsourced to every conceivable foreign country.
  • Our monies have been frittered away.

The answer and response to this challenge is the only one left to us.

Education.

We have to think ourselves out of this paper bag. There may be a kid sitting in some second grade classroom somewhere with the answer to this problem. We don't know which kid it is. Our biggest hope is to develop as many of these kids as possible to catch and develop this kid.

Instead of over-funding business entities alone, we need to ramp up the school systems. That means doing things like...PAY TEACHERS. That means being more creative.

That means sometimes we "waste" money experimenting with new ideas. Mathematics sometimes creates answers to questions that have not yet been formulated. We need to look at things in a new light.

We have lost our competitive edge. Our elementary and secondary school systems, once the model for the planet, have slipped into the mediocre. This challenge is a supreme challenge. It needs the tools only supreme thinking can master.

We need to bootstrap ourselves to become hungry for the knowledge to train ourselves. No one else is going to help us. We need to stop our societal grubbing for money as an end. Money is the means to this end. Not the end product.

A private/public system will develop the engineering and support systems that will allow us to get off oil -- One barrel at a time.

But the attitude for aptitude has to come first.