Kicking The Education Can Down The Road At NASA

Keith's note: After four years of attempts to kill NASA's Education Office a new Administration wants to increase NASA's education funding. A person with a PhD in Education lives in the White House. Overall, the Biden/Harris Administration talks about enhancing education in all quarters of the government. Instead of having a political donor running the Department of Education into the ground, an actual teacher and professional educational manager is now the Secretary of Education. If you are interested in the future of our nation's education system, now would be a good time for you to start being enthusiastic - again.

You'd think that NASA would be overjoyed. Alas, even in the best of times, NASA's education efforts have been under funded, filled with congressional pork, and at odds with NASA Public Affairs and the outreach efforts run by various NASA directorates, missions, and field centers. And they lack even the most basic of metrics to allow its efforts to be evaluated for effectiveness. Rarely has NASA's education office been run by an actual professional educator with prior education management experience.

As Bill Nelson assumed the position of NASA Administrator, he has been saying all the right things about education, inspiring the next generation, the value of NASA as a global ambassador, etc. Jim Bridenstine said the same things. So did Charlie Bolden and Sean O'Keefe. Unlike his predecessors, NASA has a $147 million request - a 15.7% increase over FY 2021 appropriations in its education budget in the President's FY 2022 budget request. The budget request shows an out year runout reaching $160 million in FY 2026. If you look at the STEM summary in the NASA budget justification (page 725) - the 3 pages of 'lets get rid of education' verbiage from the Trump era is replaced with 6 pages of 'what can we do to expand education' at NASA.

What The Biden/Harris White House Says About NASA Education

As for NASA's plans according to this budget justification, the document states:

"NASA will execute a new integrated action plan toward broadening student participation in STEM Engagement programs and activities. This plan has outlined discrete initiatives and identified best practices already underway under four overarching goals:
• Enhance communications and stakeholder engagement, and build networks and relationships dedicated to broadening student participation;
• Strengthen practices and systems toward broadening student participation;
• Build a solid foundation for a focus on metrics and evaluation to effectively measure progress in broadening student participation; and
• Drive a collective focus across NASA's STEM Engagement community on broadening student participation and foster a commitment to achieving more diversity, equity, and inclusion in student opportunities and programs."

Keep these things in mind as you go through my commentary.

Two weeks ago I sent an email to NASA Public Affairs - and the Associate Administrators for Communications and STEM Engagement - about the excellent ISS event with visually and hearing impaired students. I got a partial response a week later. The following excerpt from the PAO response summarizes the current lazy, disinterested attitude within NASA Headquarters with regard to education:

NASAWatch: "How does this event link to the Biden/Harris Administration's education strategic plans"?
NASA PAO: "Please reach out to the White House."

Oddly the budget justification issued by the White House - presumably written with the collaboration of NASA - states that such a plan exists. So why did NASA Public Affairs tell me to consult with the White House? Did they not know that they had a plan what was in synch with the White House? As you will see below, NASA's education plans are ad hoc, in serious need of updating, are out of synch with other agency activities, and almost totally devoid of "metrics and evaluation to effectively measure progress in broadening student participation" as stated by the White House.

Assuming that the FY 2022 budget request for NASA education survives, what will Bill Nelson do with the extra $27 million? Will he just pour it into the status quo? If so then the added funds will make little real difference due to systemic problems within the NASA STEM Engagement Office. Or, will Nelson take the lead offered him by the White House and set aside some serious money to revamp i.e. to "Build Back Better" this aging and inefficient education program so as to make it 21st century compliant?

Let's take a closer look at NASA's Education efforts. I have expanded some of the things I have been writing about recently.

The NASA STEM Engagement Office Does Not Run All NASA Education

It is a common belief that NASA's Education Office - or The STEM Engagement Office - or whatever name it has this week - runs all education and outreach for NASA. It does not. This office only runs a small portion. And a lot of what it does is affected by Congressional set asides and specific appropriations direction. In addition, every NASA mission directorate, mission, program, and field center has their own education and outreach efforts. Some of these efforts are coordinated with the NASA HQ education team. But for the most part these are independent efforts run by organizations for their own focused purposes and not so much for the agency as a whole. The budgets for these activities are located in a hundred different places - many of which are hidden. As such it is truly impossible to accurately gauge how much NASA spends on education and outreach.

These non-STEM Engagement Office education and outreach efforts are inherently duplicative and are often openly non-coordinated and competitive with other similar NASA efforts - sometimes defiantly so. Often times various parts of NASA set up their own education and outreach efforts when they conclude that the NASA STEM Engagement Office is non-responsive and/or disinterested in what that part of NASA wants to convey to a larger audience. Moreover, these non-STEM Engagement Office efforts have even fewer metrics to justify their performance than the NASA STEM Engagement Office has. That is troubling. In addition to being unable to quantify how much NASA spends on education and outreach, NASA has no demonstrable idea e.g. no metrics as to how it affects its various target audiences. NASA only has crude social media, web, and TV metrics with which to judge its effectiveness or lack thereof. But now the head of NASA public affairs is a TV guy who understands audiences and demographics - so maybe that issue will get some attention. But he can only hold sway within the small subset that NASA Public Affairs has control over.

NASA has no idea how well it reaches target audiences - much less what those target audiences actually are. This means that NASA cannot say what audiences are being well-served, underserved, or ignored. They don't have metrics to show what is working and what is not. And they do not have a process that allows lessons learned to be incorporated into a continuously improved education and public outreach effort. If you ask for this (I have) NASA does not respond.

NASA's STEM Engagement Office is but a small subset of this larger effort on NASA's parts. Its dysfunction and inefficiencies are symptomatic of larger endemic problems at NASA - problems that everyone acknowledges - but no one will really do anything to fix. They just kick the can down the road - or pass the buck - or look the other way. Simply pouring more money into the existing Byzantine arrangement within NASA's education and outreach efforts will solve nothing. If anything it will simply fortify existing problems.

NASA needs to formulate a simple education and public outreach strategy - one with built in metrics and mandatory evaluation procedures that are applicable to everything it does. This strategy must include all education and outreach activities and have firm structural interactions with legislative affairs, public affairs, international and industrial relations. You do not need yet another blue ribbon panel to talk about this. NASA needs to hire actual education and outreach professionals with prior - and more importantly - real world experience - and not just shove existing NASA employees into open slots for jobs that they have no qualifications to conduct.

But let's look at the NASA STEM Engagement Office first.

NASA STEM Engagement Office Leadership

Looking at NASA STEM Engagement Leadership the bios listed on the NASA STEM Engagement office website none of the top three persons mentioned have any actual professional background in education management or outreach prior to taking their job at NASA. Or maybe they do. It is hard to say for certain. Some NASA HQ mission directorate leads are mentioned - but these directorate activities are not funded by the NASA STEM Education Office. None of the identified mission directorate individuals have posted resumes or bios - so it is hard to determine if they have a professional background in education management or outreach either. Maybe they do.

The NASA Advisory Council Education Committee Has 4 Guys On It.

There is a NASA Advisory Council STEM Engagement Committee. I just happened to know this but non-NASA people might not since the NASA STEM Office calls it by different names. The council lists 4 members (there were 7 people on the committee in March 2021) and where they work. There is not a single woman (there was one in March) on the council and there no bios of the members posted or linked to. The last meeting was 8 months ago. Their agendas show that they rarely even meet for a full day. Usually this committee only has 4 hour meetings. That is how important NASA education is.

Confusing Education Budget Documents

The education budget documents that NASA has posted just sit there on the website with no explanation. This can be exceptionally misleading to someone visiting this website with the intention of understanding what resources NASA has. These documents are simply three page excerpts from the vastly larger NASA budget materials that are found in annual presidential budget requests. In the case of documents from Trump Administration budget requests, NASA STEM Engagement was zero for FY 2021, FY 2020, and FY 2019 and substantial but for FY 2018. Of course these are White House budget requests. Congress has other ideas.

If you read the FY 2021 Administration Budget Request excerpt for NASA, it says "NASA will implement an orderly shutdown of the Office of STEM Engagement programs and projects with the goals of minimizing negative impact to awardees and performing closeout in a cost-effective and efficient manner." It also says the exact same thing in the FY 2020, FY 2019, and FY 2018 NASA budget request excerpts. That's pretty emphatic. Team Trump wanted to eradicate the NASA Education office.

If you look at the first page of the FY 2021 request - at the budget for FY 2021 - you see $0.00 was requested by Trump for FY 2021. But you see that the enacted amount for the previous fiscal year 2020 was $120 million. So ... no money was requested for FY 2021 but there was money in place for FY 2020 - that is what it says, right? But if you read the FY 2020 document it says there was no money requested for FY 2020 - but money was there for FY 2019 - and so on. Meanwhile the NASA STEM Engagement Highlights 2020 (published in 2021) has some large dollar figures that add up to $121.5 million.

Its like this for the entire Trump Administration period. So, unless you are skilled in reading these documents, you would not really understand that the Trump Administration tried to gut NASA education every year, Congress refused to do so, and fully funded NASA education at previous levels. But the NASA STEM Engagement Office is either uninterested or incapable of explaining the real situation. Just posting a bunch of reports without making even the slightest attempt to explain what their sources are - and what they all mean in terms of concept - is not the best way to inform educators, the public, or policy makers.

Making NASA Education Disappear

The Trump folks also tried to shove these programs into other parts of NASA with no clear idea as to how they'd be managed. Clearly, whatever survived would have to be paid for with money that was supposed to go to science and program operations. In essence the Trump people wanted "education" to disappear from NASA in both form and function. They even pushed Congress to change the name of the NASA "Education" office to the "STEM Engagement Office".

There was also some rivalry with the Trump Department of Education whose nightmarish behavior utterly eclipsed any problems NASA had. But that bad dream is over as well. One would hope that NASA would change the name back to the Office of Education so as to be clear as to what the office does - and that NASA and the Department of Education would work together synergistically as allies - not competitors.

Lots Of Reports With No Context

NASA lists a bunch of Annual Reports. The last performance report that has been posted is for FY 2019. There is nothing posted for FY 2020 which ended in September 2020 - 9 months ago. But all you see in this report are a bunch of reports for various space grant consortiums, Minority University Research and Education, and Next Gen STEM These are all important, merit worthy things but they only represent a portion of what NASA's education activities cover. And nothing really explains the interrelationship of these efforts, why NASA does them, and how their results are incorporated into NASA's over all activities.

NASA's Murky Education Strategy

Two NASA strategies for STEM Engagement are listed. There is a 7 page Powerpoint presentation NASA Strategy for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Engagement 2018 - 2020 but there is no follow-up report on how well this "strategy" was implemented. What worked? What did not? How did this 2018-2020 experience inform the subsequent report for 2020-2023? Oh yes, is a 7 page Powerpoint presentation the actual strategic document and plan for NASA? There is a graphic of another (larger?) document but that document is nowhere to be found. So its hard to tell what strategy and plans NASA had other than the cartoon version in this Powerpoint presentation.

Then there is the NASA Strategy for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Engagement 2020 - 2023 which is a 9 page Powerpoint document. This one has more words and fewer cartoons that its predecessor. This document has been "Approved by the NASA STEM Engagement Council". For starters what exactly is the "NASA STEM Engagement Council"? It is overtly shown as having approved this document but the document never defines its role or function nor who is on the council, what their backgrounds are, and who they represent. If you search for it using the NASA search engine you get nonsense results. But I guessed that they were talking about - its the NASA Advisory Council STEM Engagement Committee. People outside of NASA would not have guessed that.

NASA's 2020-2023 Strategic Plan Is Neither Strategic Or A Plan

This 2020 - 2023 Strategy document is clearly written for a small audience inside of NASA i.e. the people who oversee what the STEM Engagement office does. It is mostly charts and short bits of text which highlight the important points - but never discusses them. There are Strategic Goals and Objectives listed in bullet form but each topic gets one or two sentences. No description is given as to how these things will - or currently are - or have been - implemented. Since this is a second report, no mention is made of the 2018-2020 report and how the results of that time period informed this report. You'd think that prior success would be worth pointing to.

Also, when you get a strategic plan like this there should be some rationale behind the goals and objectives - the things that comprise a strategic plan. Where did these goals and objectives come from - and when? How will NASA know if they have met these goals? Clearly, NASA needs to focus on education. But the goals and objectives do not mention that they were formulated in response to ongoing needs, or problems, or deficiencies. . There are places and populations in America who are underserved when it comes to NASA education and outreach activities. If you cannot describe the need then how do you justify these various things that NASA does? How do you know y our programs have hit the mark? There is a strong focus on education by the Biden Administration. As such, you'd think that someone at NASA would be working overtime to do a tune up on what its website says. Instead they leave it incomplete and out of date.

There is a paragraph in the 2020-2023 document that says "STEM engagement in the context of NASA's Mission" but it clearly emerged de novo since none of the referenced plans mention any of this. It says "significant underrepresentation remains in areas critical to NASA like engineering and computer and mathematical sciences". OK, so there is a citation of a need but you cannot draw a wiring diagram between this statement and the goals and objectives that this document contains. Nowhere is there any mention of how audiences and communities are identified, targeted, and approached. One size does not fit all in this regard.

The document also says that NASA will "Build and sustain a network of strategic partnerships with industry, educational institutions and informal education organizations to enhance the impact of NASA's investments and drive delivery of NASA STEM engagement services and products." OK, where is the list on the STEM Engagement website of existing educational partnerships, Space Act Agreements, MOUs, etc.? This page Partnering with NASA STEM Engagement offers no insight and refers to a National STEM Education report that has been taken offline.

How about this statement: "Provide direct support to colleges and universities to strengthen research and development capacity and capabilities that stimulate contributions critical to NASA's mission." Where is the list of colleges and universities and the specific efforts being made?. And so on.

Broken Links To Important Reports

The introduction from the 2020-2023 document says that its contents are in accordance with the "Federal Strategy for STEM Education and Engagement (2018-2020), Charting a Course for Success: America's Strategy for STEM Education" which has a link attached but does not describe what this document says. Nor does it make any mention of even a minimal set of high level identified needs that this document addresses toward which NASA focuses its efforts.

But wait: the link for this report is pointless if someone is just reading a PDF version of this strategy or reading a printed version. And the link they use https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/STEM-Education-Strategic-Plan-2018.pdf is dead anyway since White House websites change with every administration. But you can find it if you Google a bit - here is a copy online at a non-profit website. Editing PDF files is easy. I alerted the NASA AA for STEM Engagement about this error 2 months ago and this large error is still sitting there uncorrected.

Lots Of Acronyms But Important Key Words Are Absent

This 2020-2023 document says that it "provides the context for STEM engagement within the NASA strategic plan" but does not say which strategic plan. This is important since it covers 2020-2023 i.e. now. One would assume that they mean the NASA Strategic Plan from 2018 which was baselined before a series of Trump Administration and National Space Council directives. In this 2018 Strategic Plan "STEM education" appears once. "Education" appears 8 times. If you search for these 8 occurrences of "education" then you will see that education actually receives no guidance - strategic or otherwise - in this "NASA Strategic Plan". So (I guess) since the plan is mute with regard to any substantive focus on education, it is easy to say that the STEM plan adheres to the NASA Strategic Plan since this document really offers zero guidance in this regard. It is easy to say you are doing something when you don't bother to explain what you are doing.

Of course NASA's charter and various authorization bills (codified in law) proscribe a lot of things that NASA is supposed to do with regard to education and outreach but this document seems to not take notice of - or respond to - what they say. And you can be certain that Congress remembers since they try and steer money to their home districts based on the guidance they have put into authorization and appropriations language.

This STEM Education and Engagement (2020-2023) Powerpoint briefing is a 9 page document. It is not a "strategy". You need more words for that. "STEM" appears 78 times. "Student" appears 47 times. "Learning" appears 16 times. The word "education" appears 13 times - 7 as part of the word "educational" and 3 times as part of a name. Oddly, the words "teach" and "teacher" do not appear anywhere in this document. Nor does "disabled". "Diversity" appears twice - in the same sentence in a chart. "School" appears 4 times - 3 times as tiny letters in a graphic. "Underserved" appears once.

Last week NASA did a web event with the Space Station crew and some visually and hearing impaired students. It was really nice. Yet the NASA STEM Engagement office has yet to mention it on its website, on social media, or in its weekly EXPRESS newsletter. Add in the fact that "disability" is not even mentioned in their strategy and you have to wonder whether NASA knows that this is something that they need to focus on.

I am trying to understand how an acronym like STEM appears 78 times but words like "teach", "teacher", and "disabled" are absent and "underserved" appears once. It is as if the document was written to agree with other documents and say STEM as many times as possible. It is as if NASA is only interested in half of the topic.

NASA Loves Government Word Salad

The 2020-2023 document says "authentic learning and research opportunities". What does that mean? What about "mission-driven opportunities and collaborative initiatives"? To be certain the document does list a lot of things that can and be should done, but it never explains why. And much of what it talks about is laden with NASA acronyms that people in the real world do not use. If you cannot explain why you do some things, then you can't defend why you do not do others.

Moreover, when you have no guidance with which to decide what has more value and what has less it is hard to make cogent decisions. Or maybe that secret sauce is in another NASA document that we are not aware of? You do not need to go into excruciating detail in a document like this but how you solicit and select and review things and then evaluate their relevance and performance should at least be mentioned. Who reviews progress? NASA? This council? Some external educational credentialing organization. Indeed, is any of this NASA stuff accredited?

There is a bullet in the 2020-2023 document that says "Outcome-driven - Establish outcomes and define corresponding metrics and measures to demonstrate success." .Go ahead and ask NASA for their metrics on how many students, educators, schools, etc. are contacted/engaged, how many types of interaction occur, what the target audiences are, what actual population participated, what value was obtained from these interactions, how the interaction allows participants to enhance their skillset, what sort of follow-up is conducted, and which activities fail in one regard or another such that they need adjustment, discontinuation, or replacement. Over the years I have asked NASA for these metrics. No reply. NASA either has metrics for what it does and hides them or it does not have them and is therefore unable to release them. Probably a little of both.

There is another bullet that says "Use guidelines, strategies, frameworks, and proven practices informed by research, literature reviews, and/or evaluation to build the available body of facts (evidence) confirming program effectiveness and impact." But none of this is described in this document or anywhere that I can find on the STEM Engagement website. And again - the metrics that they post are incomplete and not always accurate. If NASA says that they use these reviews and evaluations then these things must actually exist since they use them, right? So where are they?

NASA Lists A Report That Mostly Ignores NASA And Gives It An "F"

There is another briefing "NAC STEM committee page titled NASA Advisory Council STEM Engagement Committee National STEM Update" dated 29 October 2019 on the NASA STEM website. It refers to the same National Science and Technology Council report "Charting A Course For Success: America's Strategy For STEM Education" with a link http://www.whitehouse.gov/wp- content/uploads/2018/12/STEM-Education- Strategic-Plan-2018.pdf. Again, as mentioned above, NASA posted a link from the previous Administration's White House website that no longer works. I found another link here that works.

Go to page 4: There is a chart "Goals for American STEM Education" that lists the following departments: Commerce, Defense, Energy, Homeland, Interior, Labor, Transportation, Education, EPA, HHS, NSF, Smithsonian, USDA - and NASA. 9 objectives are shown will bullets for each agency that meets them. NASA only has three bullets. 3 out of 9 is 33%. That's an "F". NASA is at the bottom of the barrel behind all but 2 agencies. Meanwhile NSF, USDA, Commerce, and Education Departments have a perfect score.

NASA lists a bunch of metrics generated by external sources. But NASA is incapable of generating - or revealing its own metrics. If you look at this the presentation, NASA has excerpted lots of metrics regarding education and outreach - but they are not NASA metrics. So NASA knows what these metrics look like. But all NASA seems to want to say is "yea - what they said" since you can't find metrics like this for NASA educational activities.

NASA has documents and pages on its current website that purportedly reflect its current stance on STEM and education policy. It only took me a moment to find the error and several correct links on two presentations. Editing PDFs and websites is easy. Why NASA does not do this is baffling. Bad links to reports that NASA cites as being important are pointless if they do not work. Again, I pointed this out 2 months ago. No one cared to fix this.

Jim Bridenstine was a co-chair of the effort that led to this report. As such, you'd think that NASA stuff would be highlighted. Instead, NASA is almost absent. "NASA" is mentioned 6 times - 5 of the mentions are next to the names of people. A NASA project in Louisiana gets a box on page 20. That's it. And again, on the agency to agency score card, NASA flunked.

NASA Lists Education Reports That Are Out of Date

There are a bunch of "Performance Related Reports" shown on the website. The last one is from 2015 - 6 years ago. More than half of the reports are a decade old. No attempt is made to put them in the context of who paid for them, what their output was used for, and why none of these topics have been addressed for a decade or more. In essence this is "Hey you want reports? We got reports". NASA has listed highlights reports for a weird collection of years - 2007-2011, then there is an 8 year gap, then they resume for 2019-2020. Why was NASA uninterested in telling people what its education programs were doing for 8 years? Let's look at the most recent report.

NASA STEM Engagement Highlights 2020

NASA has posted a greatest hits presentation called "NASA STEM Engagement Highlights 2020". It is a Powerpoint presentation that is 37 pages long. Nice small type - hard to read online unless you have a big screen.

To be certain: this report does mention a lot of really good things. But its a highlights report. A snapshot. It is not inclusive of everything that NASA STEM Engagement does. Nothing of that sort is mentioned on the STEM website - so this report is the closest thing we have to an overall annual report on what NASA's educational efforts accomplished. There is no connection between each of the things listed and how they specifically meeting the goals and objectives that NASA STEM Engagement claims to be implementing.

NASA STEM claims that they collaborate internally with other parts of NASA yet when High Schools United with NASA to Create Hardware (HUNCH) is mentioned, nothing is said about NASA HEOMD and how they fly HUNCH hardware. Nor is HEOMD mentioned in connection to ISS downlinks with students. App Development Challenge (ADC) is mentioned by no mention is made of the NASA International Space Apps Challenge, etc. Dollar amounts are shown for some activities apparently funded by NASA STEM totaling around $120 million but many other efforts have no dollar amount connected or funding source identified. So it is hard to determine if these projects are all paid for by NASA STEM Engagement or some other part of NASA. Or both. As such one could easily get the impression that the NASA STEM Engagement office is much bigger and better funded than it actually is.

Let's look at the top level talking points that are made - and what is lacking in terms of data needed to actually understand what NASA STEM Engagement does. To preface this commentary - a student, parent, teacher, commercial representative, local, state or Federal representative, or the news media - should be able to enter a zip code and find all of the data relevant to where they live and what their interests are. This would aid decision makers, guide students and teachers in offering career guidance, and allow the general public to know what NASA is doing in their community. NASA's online search engine is a complete mess. So, absent a useful NASA search tool, Google is all you have.

Having a central place to enter your location and obtain all relevant NASA Education information would also help NASA instantly understand the background of someone who contacts the agency - or stops Bill Nelson in an elevator. Some past NASA participants might be willing to mentor or inform people as to how they engaged with NASA. Lawmakers would have a much clearer example of wither how important NASA activities are to their state or, when that is lacking, where they need to get to work getting more NASA involvement in their state.

The U.S. Congress "Find Your Representative" web portal and the Veterans Administration location finder are simple examples of what can be done on a government website. Yes, there are legal things about data privacy that must be followed, but NASA doesn't even try.

Ideally the back end of such a website is a database that NASA STEM Engagement, Public Affairs, Mission Directorates, Legislative Affairs all populate with data. But that presupposes intra-agency coordination - which is a big problem for NASA - and that is the topic for another day.

According to the 2020 Highlights:

- 6,412 $35M Internships, Fellowships, and other Higher Education Awards [what are the institutions, locations where interns and fellows are accommodated, and data on the effectiveness of these experiences?]
- 2,015 Research and Development publications [NASA publishes a weekly Spaceline current awareness of space life science research. Where is the bibliography for these 2,015 publications - NASA knows they exists if they have an exact number like this, right?]
- 8 patents were awarded to higher education institutions as a direct Engagement program grants or cooperative agreements [What are the patents? USPTO has a simple database interface]
- 2,097 institutions and organization collaborators [what are the names and locations and the nature of the collaborations i.e. SAA, MOU etc.]
- 691,753 students participated in students participated in NASA STEM engagement activities [what is the geographic breakdown? What sort of follow-up did NASA do and what were the results?]
- 86,441 educators participated in NASA STEM engagement training activities [what is the geographic breakdown? What sort of follow-up did NASA do and what were the results?]

Summary

NASA's education efforts have always been starved in terms of budgets, contorted by congressional set asides, not fully staffed, and outperformed by other parts of the agency who do their own education activities. There is no overarching education or outreach strategy for NASA. Let me say that again. There is a strategy that NASA claims is its STEM (education) strategy except large portions of the agency are either exempt or simply ignore it.

The wording in NASA reports is clearly steered so as to echo the wording in other reports - all produced within the government. Policy wonks and government managers in Washington, DC who only talk to one another. Little effort is made to phrase important findings and recommendations in plain language so as to be accessible and understandable to teachers who are not steeped in this cargo as well as elected officials and parents. Once again NASA has no idea who their audiences are and is lacking the skills to best communicate with those audiences. Publishing reports is more important than focusing on what they actually say and who they reach.

Real people - real teachers, parents, students - do not talk using the stilted, jargon-laden language used in these reports. NASA is not going to be a meaningful part of any education solution if they continue to talk over the heads of the very people they seek to serve.

Everyone you talk to within the NASA bubble will admit that this is the case, but no one ever tries to fix it. NASA could be doing so much more than it does - even with existing resources - if only it acted as one agency - not a bunch or competing fiefdoms with their own semi-selfish agendas and audiences. And now that there is a White House that seeks to enhance the viability of education programs across the Federal government, NASA seems to be asleep at the wheel.

I am an Apollo baby from Meriden, Connecticut - a small town - certainly not a space town. In the early 1960s I wrote to NASA and large box of educational material eventually arrived. It changed my life. Bill Nelson literally grew up in the middle of it all on the Space Coast in Florida - so, we both know what sort of magic a little dose of NASA can have on young minds.

Is Bill Nelson going to enable the Artemis Generation to get the same inspirational benefit that the Apollo Generation received? Or is NASA going to just kick the can down the road?

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on June 1, 2021 12:00 AM.

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