Sunday, October 30, 2016

Ignoring Our Best & Brightest - Let's Celebrate Mathletes

It's not surprising that contemporary society has a disproportionate interest in celebrating athletic achievements while downplaying or ignoring academic and intellectual accomplishments. And, of course, most of the news we hear about schools and students is focused on their shortcomings and failings. That narrative is a primary part of our problem, and perhaps it's time that we begin celebrating mathletes as much as we celebrate athletes. That's the spirit of my most recent piece for the Denver Post - We Celebrate our Athletes, so why not our Mathletes?

In July, six American high school students went to Hong Kong and won the International Math Olympiad. It was the second year in a row that American students have bested the world’s top mathletes from academic powers like China, South Korea, and Singapore. And practically no one in the news or government had a word to say about this incredible achievement. Sadly, this oversight reflects a disappointing tradition in the media, our education system, and society in general of ignoring the achievements of our best and brightest.
In Colorado, a general aloofness to academic achievements is no different, as there is a genuine apathy to recognizing the success of young Coloradans. Back in June, 57 students traveled to Salt Lake City to compete at the National Speech & Debate Tournament. In May, Colorado sent four middle-school students to the Raytheon national MathCounts competition, and dozens more competed at the Intel National Science Fair. In April, at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts’ Bobby G Awards, Mountain View High School won the Best Musical prize with a stunning tap dance production of “Anything Goes,” and the state’s top two thespians were sent off to a national theater competition in New York. And in the spring, a team of students from Cherry Creek High School placed second in the national CyberPatriot competition, keeping the world safe from digital terrorism.
Despite all these successes, the Colorado public is virtually unaware of the state’s young talent, and far too often the only discussions we have about students and education is how poorly kids are doing. We must do more as a community to celebrate, support and promote the incredible achievements of our young people.

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