MONTGOMERY COLLEGE HIGH TECHNOLOGY AND SCIENCE CENTER
OCTOBER 10, 1996
I am delighted to participate in the celebration for this extraordinary High Technology and Science Center and pleased to be part of the commemoration of Montgomery College's 50th Anniversary.
As we inaugurate this laboratory of science and technology education, it is useful to remind ourselves why such a structure is important in and to our lives. All the obvious reasons, of course, come to mind. The high value/high wage jobs of today and tomorrow mandate a substantial component of technical knowledge and skill. The standard educational requirements for work in the 21st century will routinely move beyond the high school diploma, and likely involve a technical orientation. In order to keep up and move ahead in the job marketplace, workers will need lifetime learning, a process of further education, certification, or re-education for the changing workplace. There are many other reasons and each of us here today could easily extend this list threefold.
I think, however, we might still be missing the larger, more pervasive point of this Center. Jacob Brownowski, renowned scientist, science philosopher, and historian depicted an expanded perspective for such a center and its meaning. In his book, Science and Human Values, published in 1956 (before most of today's students were born), he said, "The world today is made, it is powered by science; and for any [person] to abdicate an interest in science is to walk with open eyes toward [self-defeat]."
Clearly, this is a dramatic presentation of the role of science in society, but it is not at all incorrect. In fact, when Brownowski wrote those words in 1956, society was only moderately scientific and technological by comparison to what it is today. When he penned his thoughts in the mid-1950s, we had just invented "Velcro" but we had not yet created artificial sweeteners (no diet coke yet). We had television in our homes but lasers were just a theoretical possibility; we had invented penicillin but had not performed organ transplants, we had pinball machines but no video games, we had air transportation but not space transportation.
And yet, even then in the "ancient fifties," Brownowski was able to provide for us the vision of a "science permeated society," and also the admonition that to be ignorant of that science was akin to self-entrapment. Well, if he was prophetic then, he is utterly pragmatic and correct now.
With the opening of this Center, Montgomery College, its partner businesses, its faculty and its student body verify the necessity for being an integral part of our "science synergy society." This facility validates the importance of being able to function in the dynamic center of society. Montgomery College understood Brownowski's wisdom about the self-trap of science ignorance in a science powered society. This half-century old college has assured itself a productive place in the new century and on the cutting edge of new ideas.
The High Technology and Science Center will not only serve its students and faculty, it will also serve the surrounding economic and social community. On a much broader scale it will serve as a model for the multitude of community colleges across the nation. This network of two year colleges is a genuine American educational innovation. It provides students across our land with an experience-rich, pragmatic education. It is a network easily adaptable to change, openly flexible to innovation, expressly suited to new opportunity.
I want to congratulate the College, the business community, and all those associated with the Center's creation and to thank you for inviting me to participate in today's event.