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Two representatives of Texas A&M University join the University of Texas innovators profiled on the State of Tomorrow™ Web site. Chemical physicist Dudley R. Herschbach, 1986 co-winner of the Nobel Prize in chemistry, believes children are the ideal scholars because they’re naturally curious and uninhibited about experimenting; he touts programs that make science more interesting and accessible to students and the general public alike. Before President George W. Bush appointed him Secretary of Defense and President Barack Obama retained him there, Robert M. Gates was the president of A&M; worried about declining enrollment figures for math and science students even as globalization was making these studies more crucial to our economy, he advocated an education push comparable to the nation’s successful 1960s drive to put a man on the moon.
The two Aggies are in good company. Citing the extent to which science students are forced nowadays to memorize information and regurgitate answers, former president of the National Academies of Science and current editor of the journal Science Bruce Alberts recently denounced such science education techniques. Alberts called for a teaching “revolution” that would de-emphasize the need for test-driven memorization in favor of inquiry-based learning. And the University of Houston has initiated an online program allowing middle-school math and science teachers to earn a master’s degree for free. The Integrated Science, Math and Reflective Thinking (iSMART) degree is yet another higher-education program, such as the University of Texas’ UTeach, designed to create better teachers to inspire and develop the scientists, engineers and technologists of tomorrow.
The Innocence Project of Texas is part of a national program that uses newly discovered evidence (primarily DNA) to exonerate people behind bars who have been wrongly convicted of crimes. With the help of students from UT Arlington, more prisoners have been exonerated in Dallas County than in any other county in the nation. Under the supervision of Associate Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice Dr. John Stickels, some 40–60 students are participating in the project at any given time, many of them criminology/criminal justice majors who earn course credits for their roles in attempting to win freedom for the wrongly convicted.
In Shadow of a Doubt we explored how law students on another campus, the University of Houston, research applications to help determine which cases the Innocence Project takes on, and how those cases are then argued in court. The project, in the words of Stickels, “…applies through practice what they’re learning in the classroom.”