Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Rihanna, and Britney Spears.
We're a little short on heroes these days, if you haven't noticed--especially ones whose paths we probably want our kids to emulate. This isn't to take anything away from anyone pursuing an entertainment career--because what we have here is something entirely different. What passes for celebrity now is something created by the industry--it's more of a trend chasing product. That's why our age of hyper celebrity is driving kids more to the media to watch other people get buzz through public contests than it's driving them to performing arts schools.
That's not exactly the kind of hype machine you hope your kids aspire to be a part of. Unfortunately, there isn't a lot out there worth pursuing as a career choice that gets a lot of attention. Politics seems like a dirty game that produces a sorry set of options to choose from. Even with regards to our military, we're putting some of the best quality people have out there--true heroes--in controversial spots that many of us aren't sure we should be.
In this morning's wee hours, we witnessed a rare moment that has the capability to inspire a whole generation to strive. We took a car-sized robot and landed it on Mars. Within minutes, it started sending pictures back of what is saw. Mars! Because it's powered by plutonium it's going to be able to operate for years, if not decades. Discoveries about another planet are going to become part of our daily newsfeeds--thanks in part to NASA's spectacular use of social media. The rover has over a half million followers and climbing.
It's unfortunately rare that something so positive captures our national public attention. We're good at gathering around tragedy. In fact, we mark our lives around it. We all know where we were during the JFK assassination and 9/11. Space exploration has remained one of the few positive things that we all seem to stop and admire. Other generations remember moon landings. More recently, kids have been inspired by visits to Space Camp.
This is a moment that we need to take to sit down with our kids and not only explain what's going on, but who the people are behind this and what they did to get there. We need to talk not only about the importance of math and science, but about creativity, problem solving, and being entrepreneurial--but hopefully more about dreaming big than creating more zombie games and photo apps.
We've spent so much money on this mission that we owe it to ourselves to do everything possible to make sure it inspires a generation. That's the way it can achieve the highest payback possible. It should be integrated into curriculums across the country. This is the kind of thing that should spark a huge, measureable spike in math and science interest.
Regardless of whether or not a kid who is inspired by this mission ever makes it into space, there's very little downside to an interest in math and science--unlike failing to make it on American Idol or not qualifying for the Olympics after dedicating your whole life to that pursuit. You don't really need anything else to fall back on when you can create and build using technology.
I'd like to see Twitter automatically sign up its users for Mars Curiosity tweets--or make the default opt-out with a little popup showing their support for what's going on here. We'd all be better off if more people followed Curiosity than Kim Khardasian.