Newt Gingrich wrote a great editorial in the Wall Street Journal recently that includes 7 “achievements” that he thinks should be offered as prizes similar to the X Prize Foundation’s prizes. Personally, I think the idea of prizes to drive innovation is great and wish that the government would do this on a regular basis. Newt’s list is a great first start and there are probably others but if we have too many it would dilute the importance of the targeted list.
I do question Mr. Gingrich’s 7th item. While certainly noble in intent, it doesn’t appear that it is measurable enough to warrant a big prize. Perhaps a prize for the public school system that gets 99% of their non-special needs kids to some extremely high level of attainment on a standardized test. If we use the SAT as an example, the school system that can get 99% of their kids to over 600 on the SAT test (the average is 515 out of a possible 700 and that was for college bound seniors – the challenge would be for ALL students in a public school organization).
In lieu of government funding, I am willing to help. If someone would create a fund to go after these causes, I would contribute. I can’t put a billion dollars into the kitty but I would definitely write a check for $100!
Here is Newt’s list from WSJ.com
1) A low-cost vaccine or preventive intervention for malaria — possibly the single biggest potential improvement in the quality of life in poor tropical countries.
2) A modestly priced, mass-manufacturable hydrogen engine for cars, which would be the biggest single contribution to reducing carbon loading of the atmosphere and reducing subsidies through high oil prices to dictatorships.
3) A cheap method for turning large quantities of seawater into fresh water.
4) A reusable system that could get people into space at 10% of the current cost, thus enabling genuine space tourism and launching an age of exploration.
5) The first privately financed permanent lunar base.
6) A method for reusing nuclear waste to make Yucca Mountain, Nevada unnecessary as a repository.
7) A method of learning math and science that kids like, and that enables us to leapfrog India and China by breaking out of our unionized, bureaucratic curriculum. This would enable us to replace “No Child Left Behind” with a more effective education model that could be called “Every American Gets Ahead.”
I am done with this topic for now but I reserve the right to rant more on it someday.
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