In the midst of all the hand wringing over the state budget's lack of financial resources to provide quality educational programs for our young people, we can easily forget what outstanding and world-class educational offerings there are outside our school campuses throughout the San Diego region.
These resources are many times free of charge and readily available for our children, parents and their teachers to see and hear.
A recent prime example was the second annual Kyoto Laureate Symposium earlier this month that highlighted international lifetime achievements in technology, science, and the arts. Sponsoring this world-class event were the University of San Diego and the Inamori Foundation, founded by Dr. Kazuo Inamori, chairman emeritus of the Kyocera Corp., the parent entity of San Diego-based Kyocera North America. What an honor it was for the San Diego community to host this caliber of an event that brought together three major intellectual leaders.
The men who each received one of the world's leading awards for lifetime achievement, the Kyoto Prize, last November as well as many other scholars and scientists gathered at USD's Joan Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice to speak on their respective areas. The Kyoto Prizes, very prestigious awards, are acclaimed on the same level today as the Nobel Peace Prize.
School districts were invited to send students, teachers and parents to attend the presentations of these world experts. Those attending received an exposure to three of the brightest and most accomplished minds in the world today. The presentations were a world-class educational resource literally a short trip from any point in San Diego County.
The presenters themselves may not be household names in our pop culture, but their achievements affect our lives in ways far beyond the fame of popular stars and personalities.
For example, one of the Kyoto Laureates, Dr. Leroy Hood of the United States, won the prize in the Advanced Technology category for leading the Human Genome Project that revolutionized genomics. Specifically, his accomplishments allowed the rapid mapping of the human genome, a process that had been predicted to take up to 100 years to complete. The impact of his work is incalculable in the advancement of the life sciences.
France's Mikhael Gromov, the Kyoto Prize laureate in Basic Sciences, told local students and teachers and others gathered about his introduction of a metric structure that has toppled traditional approaches to geometry. Too complex to try to explain here, his work continues to develop in various directions beyond geometry and is having an immeasurable impact on all the mathematical sciences.
A self-taught Japanese architect and professor, Tadao Ando, holds the Kyoto Prize in Arts and Philosophy for his pioneering work in developing forms of modern architecture that forge new visions of a balance with nature. His structures span the globe, including the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts in St. Louis, the recently opened Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth (Texas), and his submitted designs for the rebuilding of the World Trade Center in New
Though outwardly scientific in tone, the awards these men received
challenges mankind to place humanity above technological advancement and profit. The Kyoto Laureate Symposium, in the words of USD President Alice Hayes, "provides us with the unique opportunity to showcase the role that social responsibility must have in the intellectual advancements in any field."
This symposium is far from being the only world-class resource available to our young people. The Salk Institute, founded in La Jolla nearly 40 years ago by one of the greatest minds of the 20th Century, the late Dr. Jonas Salk, does globally significant work in biological research. Likewise, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, also in La Jolla, is a world landmark in marine biology and the study of the oceans.
What about augmenting classroom curriculum via the many world-class museums in Balboa Park that regularly feature opportunities for world class speakers and explorers regarding their recent adventures? The Roundtable treated four history classes to pizza and sodas on Election Night last November and discussed the candidate's platforms. Then the group walked down to Election
Night Central at the Civic Center to watch the votes come in and how candidates conducted themselves. I have a suspicion that these students will be voters for life.
Other than occasional field trips, which were cut from school budgets the last go around, have our schools really taken advantage of these and so many lesser, but still valuable, resources in finding creative ways to stimulate young minds to learn about and appreciate history, the arts, science, and technology?
These and so many other scientific resources in our region offer direct educational benefits to the tens of thousands elementary, middle and high school students throughout our county. They need only to be sought out by principals, teachers and others who must now be more aggressive and creative to find ways to augment classroom instructional resources that are being impacted by the shortage of dollars from Sacramento. For example, did they know and take advantage of the Roundtable-sponsored tours on the Old Town Trolley that highlighted third grade curriculum featuring the indigenous Native American Indian cultures, land masses and early settlers of San Diego?
San Diego is a world venue in science and technology, in particular the bio-medical and wireless technology fields. The institutions and programs that reside in the region are and should be considered as classroom environments. Pfizer has developed classroom activities that involve current employees working in San Diego's classrooms to bring math and science alive for students of all ages. Other scientific companies provide speakers to the classrooms regarding the latest discoveries that can't be found in any textbook.
In several recent columns dealing with the state budget's impact on educational funding, I have preached over and over about the need to get creative and find new resources that don't require as much or any finances. Our status as a technology and biology center must be exploited by our schools to augment instructional resources now in short supply and more important to stimulate young minds to pursue careers that will influence the quality of life for generations to come.
Let's reach out and inform our students and parents about opportunities to experience the intellectual world San Diego has to offer. There is simply no excuse for not doing so.
Hovenic, Ed.D., is president and chief executive officer of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce Foundation and executive director of the Foundation's Business Roundtable for Education. E-mail her at email@example.com.