In the interest of producing more scientists, teaching methods need to be altered to take advantage both of the knowledge with which young people are in fact equipped with and of their desire to understand how the world works.

Dr. Marburger declared himself “pretty optimistic” overall. While conceding that one could point to quite a number of “scary indicators,” he said that it was part of his job to worry about precisely what those indicators meant. As the President’s Science Adviser, he could be an advocate or a counselor. While he acts as the former at times, there are times when he felt obliged “to sit back and say, ‘What does this all mean?’” He said that he is working hard on this problem, which is complicated by the existence of conflicting analyses. Earlier the same morning, he had conferred with National Research Council staff engaged in a study of these questions, and they shared his concerns. All felt the need for a much improved framework for gathering, using, and analyzing statistics relating to the workforce and innovation. “So we’ll keep trying,” he concluded, “and I think trying is one of the most important things that you can do.”

Dr. Spencer, ending the session, allowed that the news conveyed by Dr. Marburger about the number of high school students taking physics was the best thing he had heard up to that point in the day’s meeting.

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