Monday, December 15, 2008

Detroit Science Center: An Open Letter to Senator Shelby on the future of our children

As a native born Detroiter, I use my newsletter to try and tell people about some of the great things that are going on in Detroit. We have a great city and many free opprotunities to experience our treasured institutions.

One of my favortie places to visit is the Detroit Science Center, where even a cheapy like me has paid for a yearly membership for the past five years. Today the Detroit Science Center published an open letter to Senator Shelby, who has held up the bailout of the Big Three. As we think about the future of our city, and the legacy that we will leave our children, I thought I would share the letter with all of you...
J.R. Harper

Shelby's efforts discourage future engineers
An Open Letter to Senator Richard Shelby

Dear Senator Shelby:

You must be quite proud of your success in spearheading the collapse of government loans to help the American Automobile Industry get through this period of extraordinary financial chaos and uncertainty. As the head of a major science museum that exists to inspire young people to pursue careers in technology, I have an important question to ask you: What do I say to America's future engineers?

How do I inspire children to pursue a career if they see the best educated most accomplished engineers in America standing in an unemployment line?

What do I say to the 486 students who will begin attending the Science and Math Middle School at the Detroit Science Center next September when they watch America's largest employers of engineers disappear?

Asking for your support of the American automobile companies was not about nostalgia for their past glories. True, they created the American middle class, revolutionized personal mobility worldwide and enabled us to be the "Arsenal of Democracy" that powered the Allied victory in World War II. Engineers like Walter Chrysler and Charles Kettering shaped an industry that shaped the modern world. But Henry Ford himself said "History is bunk" so let's focus on today's accomplishments.

Engineers from General Motors, Ford and Chrysler are leading the world in the development of battery technology, fuel cells, vehicle safety technology and sophisticated on- board microprocessing that puts NASA and Boeing to shame.

American automotive process engineers have enhanced basic Japanese production techniques and quality systems to create the country's most integrated high volume production network of assembly plants and multi-tiered suppliers.

American automotive engineers continue to pioneer the use of sophisticated design software to enable the rapid prototyping of parts and the virtual designing of new models.

The Department of Defense aggressively adapts breakthrough American automotive technology to battlefield communications, logistics and warfare.

Yesterday's "Arsenal of Democracy" is truly today's "Arsenal of technology. Isn't that worth saving, Senator Shelby?

While the great engineering minds of Silicon Valley fret over packing more songs into an Ipod or downloading television shows faster, the engineers and scientists of the automotive industry are searching for the technology to reduce America's reliance on foreign oil and the world's consumption of fossil fuels.

Senator Shelby, please help me explain to my museum's young visitors why your home State of Alabama spent billions of dollars to entice foreign companies while encouraging the demise of three companies that account for 12% of all the corporate research and development in America.

Help me understand why a State consistently ranked lowest in education quality and number of engineering degrees awarded feels compelled to eliminate the nation's largest concentration of professional engineers.

I know you don't believe Michigan's most important industry deserves help. Perhaps you still believe that Michigan's most important assets, our children, deserve some answers to the questions that will determine their future.
Kevin F. Prihod
President and CEO
Detroit Science Center


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