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Watkins Asks Firms To Open Their Labs To Students

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Washington--Secretary of Energy James D. Watkins plans this month to ask corporate leaders to join his campaign to improve science and mathematics education.

In a letter to be sent to the chief executive officers of 1,000 firms, Admiral Watkins will ask the executives to open their research laboratories to provide opportunities to train precollegiate students and teachers.

The letter follows Admiral Watkins's announcement in October that he would create an "action plan" to improve science and math education by 2007, when children born last year will graduate from high school. (See Education Week, Oct. 25, 1989.)

Energy Department officials said the agency intends to use its network of 50 national laboratories, which employ 135,000 scientists, to train teachers and provide research experiences for students.

At a briefing here last month, Peggy Dufour, a special assistant to Secretary Watkins, said the department will seek a "substantial" increase in its $12-million budget for education programs.

But Admiral Watkins urged the corporate leaders to act before the department receives its appropriation from the Congress.

"Don't wait for us," he said at the briefing. "There's enough to do. If you complain about the outcome of schools, get involved."

Ms. Dufour noted that the department would help business leaders launch their programs by inviting them to Energy Department laboratories to observe their efforts, and by providing a clearinghouse for information on effective strategies.

Admiral Watkins stressed that the efforts must focus on improving education for all students, not just the most able.

"We're not focusing on scholarships for the handful of people who are brilliant," he said. "They can take care of themselves."

"We need women, minorities, and those you might reject as incapable because they are not going to be graduate-level engineers," Secretary Watkins added. "We're not looking for that. We're looking for a society with the technical base to understand the world around us."--rr

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