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United States Education

National Academies on U.S. Science 285

theodp writes to tell us that the National Academies, the nation's 'leading science advisory group', is warning of the continued loss of America's competitive edge with regards to science in the global community. In a press release they call for the immediate increase of teachers and advanced research and development, citing that 'in 2001 U.S. industry spent more on tort litigation than on research and development.' The Committee includes, among others, Intel's Craig 'Don't Call Us Benedict Arnold CEOs' Barrett.
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National Academies on U.S. Science

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 15, 2005 @06:34PM (#13799558)
    The Americans have "faith based" science. What could go wrong?
  • by LaughingCoder ( 914424 ) on Saturday October 15, 2005 @06:38PM (#13799585)
    In American society, being good at math or science is generally regarded as geeky or nerdy and is roundly disparraged. Small wonder American kids want nothing to do with it. Look at the popular TV shows - many are about lawyers, doctors, and law enforcement types. If there is a technically saavy person, they are made fun of and treated as quaint. Until this changes we can throw all the money we want at the problem, but it won't change much. Back in the 60's it was cool to be into science - largely thanks to the space race (and to a lesser degree the cold war). There was even a TV personality (Fred MacMurray in My Three Sons) who played an aeronautical engineer, and he was actually portrayed in a positive light! That's impossible to imagine in today's culture. Maybe if we had something akin to the space program, say a race to energy indepenence, we could once again make it cool to pursue a career in science, math, physics or engineering.
    • Perhaps such people should leave the American "culture", especially if they feel they are unwanted. The academic scene in Europe is flourishing, and such talent would be wanted and treated well.

    • by going_the_2Rpi_way ( 818355 ) on Saturday October 15, 2005 @06:53PM (#13799675) Homepage
      I think the culture argument is mostly baloney, and the state of IP in the US contributes substantially.

      People 'do' science because they find it cool, not because they become rock stars. And there are of course science shows like "Numb3rs" (awful) and "CSI" and "Star Trek" and about a million others that try to some degree to spotlight science. The number of "Adventures in Engineering" or "Women in Engineering" camps has grown considerably over the last 10 years in these parts.

      Also changing is the degree of security around science (this has become a major issue to research and collaboration and being able to publish). The US has also historically had the incredible ability to draw the best minds from around the world. This is also changing as world opinion of the US drops and also as the security increases. Middle eastern researchers trying to work in the US face undue scrutiny from the authorities professionally and possibly prejdice in their family personally.

      Just my opinion of course...
      • by king-manic ( 409855 ) on Saturday October 15, 2005 @07:01PM (#13799714)
        I think the culture argument is mostly baloney, and the state of IP in the US contributes substantially.

        People 'do' science because they find it cool, not because they become rock stars. And there are of course science shows like "Numb3rs" (awful) and "CSI" and "Star Trek" and about a million others that try to some degree to spotlight science. The number of "Adventures in Engineering" or "Women in Engineering" camps has grown considerably over the last 10 years in these parts.


        Actually, highschol culture is a huge reason why more people don't go into the sciences. That and the relatively low pay scales of scientists compared to other professions with similiar training periods.
    • Er, yeah, and I guess this is something new? Since the dawn of time I'm sure the geeky nerd always lost out to the athletic type (ref. 'Happy Days', ABC) - I doubt people intelligent who enough to pursue careers in Maths & science are that readilly /radically influenced by television trends. Maybe it's worth accepting that, dare I say it, Maths and Science aren't actually that 'cool' to most people (probably because they're not) - it's all in the eye of the beholder. I don't think culture has anything t
    • There was even a TV personality (Fred MacMurray in My Three Sons) who played an aeronautical engineer, and he was actually portrayed in a positive light!

      The husband on "Medium" is an Aerospace Engineer. My husband and I refer to the show as "that show with the aerospace engineer". He doesn't do much engineering though.

      Maybe if we are lucky we will get a show of our very own. :^)

      Just the same I don't really see culture as the issue. I was a nerd in highschool - and it was hell. Once I got

    • by Simonetta ( 207550 ) on Saturday October 15, 2005 @07:08PM (#13799735)
      I can't believe that the CEO of Intel is worried about the loss of US scientific positioning. He does everything possible to drive people OUT of the technical and engineering professions.

          This is the guy who's company insists that you have college degrees and take a drug test before they will even consider you for a temp position working in any technicial position in his company.

          Did I say temp? Goodness me, I meant perma-temp. Work for years as a 'contract' employee with no health insurance, job security, advancement, or benefits.

          Intel sucks. Check out the FACEIntel website for more information. I spent a week at Intel ten years ago. I sure hope that I never have to go back there. Unless you are one of the top twenty people in the world at what you do, Intel is a total dead-end company. And if you are one of the top twenty people in the world in your speciality, why the hell would you want to work at Intel? It's a 'sixth sense' company; already dead but doesn't know it.
      • Intel sucks. I spent a week at Intel ten years ago. I sure hope that I never have to go back there.

        You spent a week at Intel 10 years ago (presumably in one group) and you can difinitively say that it's still like it was then all over the whole company?

        I've been a 'perma-temp' a couple of times there in the last 4 years. There are good groups and there are bad groups. good managers and very bad managers.

        Though I do agree with you that Intel's policies (and the policies of many other tech companies) are dr
        • by Courageous ( 228506 ) on Saturday October 15, 2005 @10:41PM (#13800672)
          There are good groups and there are bad groups. good managers and very bad managers.

          People who don't know big companies, don't realize that the truly large ones are more like many companies under one name. I work in one of America's top 10 defense companies; when the market changes around a bit, we actually shop for job (resume passing, interviews, and all) INSIDE the company. The differences in groups and even cultures is quite large.

          C//
    • Arrghhh- The thing is, most of the kids I knew in high school who were good at science and math and applied themselves now have comfortable lifestyles and attractive wives/families... (Sorry to burst the bubble on the whole slashdotters live in the parents basement and never get laid- woman like smart men, and I imagine most of us on slashdot have gf's or wives...)
      The kids who wore baggy pants and beat up the nerds tend to have jobs where their names are embroidered on the breast of their shirts... if they
      • The whole point is that people who are nerdy are usually shy and socially inept. The "popular" kids are always very social and extroverted. Most people earning the big bucks in this world, aside from the lonely scientist in his lab, are all extremely extroverted. All people in positions of authority are very extroverted and social.

        Extroverted geniuses have a free ticket to wealth and a good social/family life. Everyone else has to work a bit at it, but generally the more social you are, the better your chan
        • You make a better point than I my friend. The thing that makes me so mad though, is that in so many groups of young people, success (Academic) is considered not cool. It is cooler to listen to fitty cents and say "ain't" even though your parents both have graduate degrees and you live in the suburbs, than it is to get good grades/be good at science/be good at drama or art etc etc etc.
          • I must say that I have not encountered this after finishing 7th grade. All throghout high school, the smart kids were the ones who made fun of the idiots and people bragged about getting higher test scores than their classmates. Of course I went to an inner-city high school, so maybe the whole nerd vs jock thing is mostly a subburban thing. We didn't even have a football team (not a popular sport in the inner-city).
    • by Julian Morrison ( 5575 ) on Saturday October 15, 2005 @07:36PM (#13799857)
      It's not even your general culture. It's your public education system, which sucks every imaginable mode of ass. It is a union-captured mediocrity-ruled Prussian-designed system absolutely intended to hammer the individual flat to the collective.

      If you have a child in the USA, home-school them. Go hungry, rather than send them to government school.
      • Julian Morrison said:

        system absolutely intended to hammer the individual flat to the collective.

        That sounds a LOT like the Japanese school system. Every nail gets pounded. Don't stick your head up or it will get cut off.

        Of course, perhaps it is not ruled by mediocrity, because everyone is kind of expected to excel. But there is no reward for excelling more than others, and socially speaking, one receives punishment (through lack of recognition, ridicule by peers, pressure to not out-compete, etc...sound

    • That's impossible to imagine in today's culture.

      Not quite... [cbs.com]
    • It has nothing to do with culture, and everything to do with population.

      India produces roughly 5 times as many engineers as we do, and has roughly 5 times the population. China produces roughly 10 times as many engineers as we do, and has roughly 10 times the population.

      Rather than play chicken little with regards to our education system, we could perhaps simply recognize that only a certain percentage of people have the apptitude, ability, and desire to be engineers. If you're going to base the competition
    • Wrong. It is $$$ (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Ogemaniac ( 841129 ) on Saturday October 15, 2005 @09:04PM (#13800254)
      There was a recent wide-spread report indicating prestige of various professions, and scientists were number one! Lack of respect is not what is driving kids away from science, it is lack of cash. As I have posted here numerous times, a smart person can make a lot more money in law, business, or medicine, all without having to stay in school until one is 30 (or older, depending on the number of post-docs you have to grind through).

      Unless this changes, we aren't going to have lots of home-grown scientists. It is that simple.

      I am a chemistry post-doc at a highly-regarded university, and have every reason to consider myself a highly intelligent person. I work my ass off (60h/week...a REAL 60h). I am nearing my 31st birthday.

      I have never made more than $22,000 in a single year.

      Do you see the problem?

      And I won't even bother to elaborate on how slaving 60h+ each week in a virtually all-male environment inhibits one's social life.
      • Re:Wrong. It is $$$ (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Courageous ( 228506 )
        As I have posted here numerous times, a smart person can make a lot more money in law, business, or medicine, all without having to stay in school until one is 30 (or older, depending on the number of post-docs you have to grind through).

        Err. Well, I'm in this troubled spot: agreeing with you, but needing to quibble over some details. Perhaps you aren't including CS in science (old quip, "anything calling itself a science isn't"). Be that as it may:

        My wife is physician. I know ALOT of physicians. Methinks y
    • by fireboy1919 ( 257783 ) <rustyp@noSpam.freeshell.org> on Saturday October 15, 2005 @09:28PM (#13800362) Homepage Journal
      Are you saying that shows about forensics and medicine aren't geeky? Have you watched any of those shows? They're all about the science!

      Ever watch MacGuyver? It had a pretty long run, and that wasn't too long ago. How about Jimmy Neutron? Main character, not comic relief, meant to be smart. Its still on.

      Its not impossible. Take off your nostalgia glasses and take a closer look. Its cooler to be a geek today than it has ever been. People wear the word with pride. Heck there are even companies that market the fact that they have them (Geek Squad, dial-a-geek).

      Its not the coolness we have to blame. People want to be smart more than they ever did. It's that

      1) Its hard
      2) We don't have enough people who are good at it to teach it.

      The same is true in other disciplines. Have you used AIM lately? Spelling, grammar, punctuation and vocabulary are pretty well shot. People don't have the ability to organize their thoughts into paragraphs (case in point: you). It seems as though we've come farther with those than with math.

      I don't think so. Its just that most of the other subjects are so much easier for so many people to understand. So they get a little farther with the same amount of effort. Therefore, they seem to be farther along.

      I have a hope that the coming of the age of the Internet is changing things. We have not had it very long, and I think that ultimately it is the internet that has changed the perception of geeks as cool. We will have to see how many teachers who are good at Math and science come out of it in the next two decades or so to see if it made a difference; its just too soon to tell.

      Of course, by then, we'll really know. Most of the teachers around today are about to retire.
      • And the thinking behind my subject line is a big part of the problem (I hate that quote, by the way).

        fireboy1919 insightfully said:

        2) We don't have enough people who are good at it to teach it.

        And to me, the problem is that there is not enough incentive for those who "can do it" to teach it. Teaching salaries (in the US) are not high. The hours are long, but not as long as some lines of work. However, there is a lot of shit in the education system that good teachers have to deal with and the low pay mak

  • by HanzoSpam ( 713251 ) on Saturday October 15, 2005 @06:39PM (#13799594)
    I remember hearing this business about our losing our scientific edge even as Apollo was landing astronauts on the moon. In itself, I really don't worry about it much. This has been a nation mostly of crackpots and bumpkins right from day one.

    Our advantage never came from having the brightest of populations, it came from having an economic and legal system that placed few barriers in the paths of the talented, which also made this country an attractive place for talented foreigners to migrate to as well (think Andy Grove, Albert Einstein or Andrew Carnegie).

    I'm a lot more worried about losing the advantages our legal and economic system afforded us than I am about some egalitarian vision of providing advanced education to the Great Unwashed.
    • Don't put too much emphasis on the system itself.

      Indeed, consider what America has in terms of natural resources, and what it has not gone through historically. Until recently, America had virtually limitless resources, be them land, petroleum, trees, ores, water, you name it. Then there was slavery during the earlier years of the nation. That is what allowed America to flourish economically.

      Now, don't forget that America also has not been seriously devastated by war in the past 150 years. In that timeframe
      • Indeed, consider what America has in terms of natural resources, and what it has not gone through historically. Until recently, America had virtually limitless resources, be them land, petroleum, trees, ores, water, you name it.

        If natural resources were the key, Africa would be running circles around us, and Hong Kong would look like Albania. Is that what you see?

        Then there was slavery during the earlier years of the nation. That is what allowed America to flourish economically.

        Um, you might want to consid
        • "You might want to think about why they had those wars in Europe, whereas we didn't have them here. Largely, it was because Europe and Asia were infested with utopian movements like Communism, Socialism and Nazism, which didn't make much of an impression on the more individualistic United States."

          They didn't make an impression because the US didn't become a hell hole every few decades. And you did get socialism, that's how you kept the great depression from turning into a full out communist revolution.

          Commu
    • " it came from having an economic and legal system that placed few barriers in the paths of the talented"

      Judging from the fact that we're now spending more on legal -- in part due to intellectual property insanity and increased wrangling over who "owns" what ideas -- it's just possible the legal system is becoming part of the problem.

      But hey, if potential personal profit means arguing over what's already been invented a la SCO instead of actually getting out and inventing things, why should we get in the wa
      • Judging from the fact that we're now spending more on legal -- in part due to intellectual property insanity and increased wrangling over who "owns" what ideas -- it's just possible the legal system is becoming part of the problem.

        I understand that it's morphing into something that's becoming part of the problem. That's exactly why I said I was worried about it. This country is becoming a place that's no longer an attractive destination for the talented and entrepreneurial. If you've noticed, our laws and e
    • I remember hearing this business about our losing our scientific edge even as Apollo was landing astronauts on the moon. In itself, I really don't worry about it much. This has been a nation mostly of crackpots and bumpkins right from day one.

      Our advantage never came from having the brightest of populations, it came from having an economic and legal system that placed few barriers in the paths of the talented, which also made this country an attractive place for talented foreigners to migrate to as well (th
    • I remember hearing this business about our losing our scientific edge even as Apollo was landing astronauts on the moon
      Look at some history - you did, which is why US built cars are rare in Australia but we import a lot more vehicles from Europe, Asia and even Brazil (more Scania trucks from Sao Paulo than US jeeps and all other US built vehicles).
  • Dubya'd (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 0x15 ( 852429 ) on Saturday October 15, 2005 @06:41PM (#13799603)
    Let me get this staight, they're asking the guy who 'believes' that intelligent design should be given time in schools to improve our science curriculum?
    Obviously, this committee has a deathwish.
  • by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Saturday October 15, 2005 @06:44PM (#13799626)
    But why is George Bush causing all these Slashdot dupes?
  • by gustgr ( 695173 ) <rondina@gmFREEBSDail.com minus bsd> on Saturday October 15, 2005 @06:44PM (#13799628) Homepage
    Last time I looked the US was the 1st on the list of scientific papers published by countries with more than 60% of the papers. The second position (United Kingdom IIRC) was really far from US in number of papers. It would be nice if not just one big expoend had the control of most scientific efforts, but many nations sharing this "privileged position".

    I indeed believe US industry should invest more in research (as all other nations should do, always, no matter what). But it's worthy noting that other nations are growing and maturing too, US can't avoid that. Besides that, this is not a fight. The benefits achieved from researches aims all humanity (at least it should be that way), so it isn't important who is at the top of the list, but it is important to support studies and researches, both in academia and in industry.
    • by Alomex ( 148003 ) on Saturday October 15, 2005 @06:55PM (#13799684) Homepage
      Last time I looked the US was the 1st on the list of scientific papers published by countries with more than 60% of the papers.

      Then you haven't looked recently. The US is now below 50% of publications in many areas.
    • Last time I looked the US was the 1st on the list of scientific papers published by countries with more than 60% of the papers.

      Ah, but look at how many of those papers are written by scientists that have come here from places like India and China, and look at how many students in U.S. science & engineering graduate programs are from elsewhere. It's been a very good thing for us to have been such a magnet for so much of the world's scientific talent, but since 9/11 the Powers That Be have done everythin

    • I think there talking quality, not quantity.
    • 33%, not 60% (Score:5, Informative)

      by Dire Bonobo ( 812883 ) on Saturday October 15, 2005 @11:20PM (#13800808)
      > Last time I looked the US was the 1st on the list of scientific
      > papers published by countries with more than 60% of the papers.

      Then you must not have looked since about 1960. As of 2005, the US published only 33% of world science papers, significantly less than the EU (38%) and only half again more than Asia-Pacific (25%). source [physorg.com], more detail [thomson.com]

      What's interesting to note is that the EU's share of world publications has increased by almost 20% in the last 20 years (from 32%) and Asia's by almost 100%, but the USA's has fallen by almost 20% (from 40% to 33%).

      In other words, the US has been losing its tech edge for at least the last 20 years.
  • While there are disturbing trends (e.g., low math and science scores, more interest in education in developing nations, eventual decline of U.S. economy) I think that there is still a lot to be optimistic about.

    For one thing, the standard of living is so high in the U.S., that a decline of luxuries is liveable -really what do you need but good friends, family food, and shelter - give me a break on the Polyana B.S. because I just got back from a good friend's wedding (where I was asked to play my didgeridoo
  • From the press release: "For the cost of one chemist or one engineer in the United States, a company can hire about five chemists in China or 11 engineers in India."
  • I am a mathematics teacher and in my class, only foreign born students see the value of education and put efforts at learning. Even those from impoverished economies in Africa do better when compared to my American students. Meanwhile, in another class at my school, our American [educational] system is producing pretty confident students, but who cannot deliver in the real world.

    As me what they are confident at: Gameboys, iPODs and PS2s. Sad indeed.

    We have a theory though:

    At our school, we think that

  • Or is extended litigation actually benefecial for our economy? I mean.. Money goes into research for goods and services.. Or, corporate money (money indirectly and directly from workers and investers) can go into the hands of rich law firms (to the tune of 30% each transaction)..

    So.. is it beneficial for our economy to increase the gap between the rich and the middle class?
  • Deja Dupe. [slashdot.org] Just a couple days ago.

    Feel free to copy/paste those highly rated comments into this thread...
  • So if an american student wanted to go get a cutting edge graduate education in biotech field, what countries would he want to look at first? Does it hurt if he only speaks english?
  • in 2001 U.S. industry spent more on tort litigation than on research and development
    So what US industry is saying is that there is a HUGE market for "Mr. LEGAL BEAGLE" software.
    Okay, Captains of Industry!

    Tired of spending big bux on lawyers?

    Subscribe to our Mr. Legal Beagle software service, and kiss your torts goodbye!

    Now, instead of counting the dollars wasted every minute you talk to an attorney, you can do a web-based "interview" with our legal AI, who will analyse your case and prepare any necessary briefs.

    When it comes time to go to court, just bring your laptop and a wireless internet connection, and Mr. Legal Beagle will argue your case for you.

    Choose from 7 exciting avatars - including Beezlebub (our most popular), Snoopy, and Darl McBride (insanity pleas). More added every month.

    Extra services - Mr. Bribe and Mr. BreakYourLegs - for when you want to "negociate" a "settlement." At an extra cost, of course.

    So what are you waiting for? Don't waste another penny on lawyers. Get Mr. Legal Beagle TODAY. Before your competitors or customers do, and sue YOU!
  • by Raul654 ( 453029 ) on Saturday October 15, 2005 @06:59PM (#13799702) Homepage
    (Preface - I'm doing a PhD in computer engineering. Both my parents are teachers [high school - one teaches languge, the other biology], and it looks like I'll be teaching an undergraduate computer-engineering course within the next year).

    The BIG problem is that the quality of math and science teaching has gone to hell in a hand-basket. I've taken dozens and dozens of science, engineering, and math courses, and *maybe* 8-10 of them had good teachers (only two of them below the university level). The teachers are failing to adaquentely instruct the students.
     
    Over the last 3-4 years my entire department has seen a rather dramatic drop in the competency of the students at the higher levels. The students aren't getting dumber, they are just less capable - they don't the material as well as they should, and you can't teach them everything in a 15 week course. I put almost all of the blame on the teachers they had as freshmen and in high school (and before that, even - I remember seeing in a National Science Teacher Assocation flyer that most studies show the big "black hole" in science education occurs around the 5th-8th grade)
    • I tutored math (calc, algebra, stats) up until about five years ago. It was worse than when I tutored in college some ten years ago. One of the sadder stories was trying to show an 'A' student how to do arithmetic. He got out of high school with a good GPA but couldn't multiply decimals.

      The problem goes a lot further than bad teachers, of which there are many. All the politicians do their yearly vote-grubbing by promising to improve education. In Florida, the current governor got elected with lots of educat
  • Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by linguae ( 763922 ) on Saturday October 15, 2005 @07:00PM (#13799709)

    ...if our corporations were ran by people with science and engineering backgrounds who cared about long-term research and development rather than ran by MBAs with BAs in Medieval History and Philosophy who can't differentiate a simple function or write a line of code, and who care more about short-term profits and $$$, then perhaps we'll see some more scientific and engineering progress in this country. Witness the downfall of Bell Labs, for example. Bell Labs was very innovative and many of its research projects led to things that we take for granted today (the very operating system that I'm typing this message on now, is FreeBSD, which is a direct descendant of Bell Labs' Unix [if you ignore the fact that the code was completely rewritten]). Then, some person [wikipedia.org] who knows nothing about science and engineering took control and cut its funding to its knees. Now Bell Labs is very small, and that same dummy went on to destroy HP in a similar fashion....

    The education system isn't looking that great, either. Our secondary schools are also failing to teach the basic science and mathematics needed to produce students capable of succeeding in an science or engineering field. College students looking at future career prospects might end up switching to law or business, because the future looks brighter for them. After all, we're outsourcing a great deal of the engineering jobs.

    This country is fast on its way of becoming a country full of rich lawyers and managers, and poor McDonalds employees and janitors. But who will be exploring science and developing new technologies? The Indians and Chinese, of course. Their corporate culture seems to care much more about the future, and besides, many of our corporations are using them to do our non-law/managerial work.

    If we want to turn back the tide, the corporate culture needs to change, and we need more CEOs who have science and engineering backgrounds who care about science and engineering. The school system in this country also needs to be radically improved.

  • We've heard calls for better science education for years but it must be getting horrible for them to issue a second warning [slashdot.org] with a couple days of each other!
  • curiosity (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fermion ( 181285 ) on Saturday October 15, 2005 @07:13PM (#13799752) Homepage Journal
    I think the US just have different priorities, and is having trouble competing in a more connected world. One theory suggests that the great US university was grew because a combination of interesting event. First, too many rich kids in the new world would die of plague when sent to England, so we started setting up 'good' schools here. Second, as we became industrialized, we had the cash to entice investors to come to the new world. At least one stayed because it was easier than going back. The greatest push for public higher education, however, was likely WWII, in which we had all these farmboys coming back with not much to do. And the unique thing about is that they had seen the world outside of their town. They had a perspective greater than their parents, and were curious. They knew what hard work was, and the advantages of not having to do the hard work. So they got degrees in engineering, math and science. And many made the discoveries that made the US a leader.

    At the same time, during and after WWII, many great minds were coming to the relatively freedom of the US. It is often say the Allies won WWII because we had the smarter Germans. This continued to the end of the the 20th century, when changes in the US and foreign rules, the increasing cost of a US education, and the availability of other options, reduced the influx of foreign talent.

    Even with all this, I think there are three critical factors that makes the US less competitive, beyond the general presence of anti-intellectualism and the president that is proud that he cannot read complex prose. The first is that funding priorities are focused more on war and less on education, therefore most Universities have less money with which to educate. Second, though I think the WWII vets communicated the wonder of the world to their kids, the grandkids do not seem to understand. I know too many kids of successful people decline to the bum slacker status, never creating anything more complex than a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

    Third, we are not communicated the wonder of the world to average kids. They grow up believing that a worker and consumer is all they can be. That is what most will be, but some can be more, and it is these resources that we are wasting. And as the US returns to protectionism, there will be less chance for a kid to be exposed to the wonder of the world. Worse, i see television shows where contestants say the most wonderful thing they have done in their life is to hold their breaths for a couple minutes, or stay still while bugs crawl on. I often did the later when I was a kid, and I never thought is was so great. What is great is launching a satellite, or helping a factory stay in the US, or helping a company stay afloat so those jobs are saved, and more are created. or a new school of art, or a new way of communicating information. And everyone will say a normal person cannot do these things, but normal people do all things everyday. All anyone thinks can be done is new and more complex ways of stealing money or cheating on taxes so our boys do not have the equipment they need, the medical care, or the education facilities when they return.

  • It's strange that kids in high school must take 4 years of English, 3 years of math and only 2 years of science. I always though math and science where more important then reading Shakespeare; but the MAN doesn't seem to think so.
  • That work will go on with us or without us. Baring some special need for a war economy a-la WW2 there is no particular reason why we have to be good at science or invest much effort in science education. There are simply too many obstacles and competing interests for us to be able to afford everything and clearlt in the marketplace of ideas, science has lost out to some extent. People who want to pursue it though are free in this interconnected world, to go do that somewhere else. If few of our young people
  • We all really know the answer to the problem.

    Allowing software patents is fraudlent and very discourging to genuine research.
    Amoung other discourging acts in politics and military and business.

    And so long as foolish act such as this continue and are allowed, the US is simply just getting what it diserves and apparently wanted by the psuedo leaders.
  • They want instant returns on quarterly basis as a measure of success. Accoutants from investment firms and not MBA's make decisions on growth of a company.

    Also what another poster mentioned is its more profitable to outsource and devalue American workers since they are no longer as efficient due to their high salaries, compared to third world countries.

  • The issue here is not why there are so few people going into scientific and technological fields in comparison to other countries, many can point at the causes, but what are US businesses and industry and government doing to improve the future of science and technology in the US?

    It seems to me that the X-Prize and DARPA Grand Challenge and other such contests inspire children to innovate and learn, to participate in science and technology, to enter those fields of study and commerce. We need more of the sam
  • For the cost of one chemist or one engineer in the United States, a company can hire about five chemists in China or 11 engineers in India.

    Well, the cost of living is a lot lower in these countries. This doesn't tell us anything about the state of American science.

    Last year chemical companies shuttered 70 facilities in the United States and have tagged 40 more for closure. Of 120 chemical plants being built around the world with price tags of $1 billion or more, one is in the United States and 50 are i
    • Been hearing how bad American students are at math and science for the past 20 years. I wonder why a disproportionate number of science Nobel Prizes still go to Americans?

      The US has a much wider spread in the distribution of these scores than most countries - the top 10% of the US students do just as well as the top 10% of the best countries in these tests. And there are where the engineer/science talent comes from anyway.

      Another factor that studies like these gloss over is that the average American is a l
  • by alizard ( 107678 ) <alizard.ecis@com> on Saturday October 15, 2005 @08:07PM (#13800030) Homepage
    producing more people with degrees in science and technology, just who in the USA will be hiring them? And for science careers, just what are they going to get paid? Rates of pay are good pointers towards what a society really values, and it's clear that science and technology aren't valued. The "anti-geek" attitudes in high school are more likely to be effect, not cause.

    The average person who doesn't have a serious interest in a subject looks for a degree in something that will get him a career. So... we graduate lots of MBAs and lawyers.

    People who are truly interested in science and technology will find a way to get educated in it, and the ones with a sense of self-preservation will be learning Chinese, Indian, and EU languages.

    Make the jobs available and the expanding demand for the appropriate classes will cause more faculty to be hired... problem solved.

    But I don't really consider this a problem, since the people who are in a position to DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS aren't interested in putting their own bucks on the table. Just ours.

  • by FleaPlus ( 6935 ) on Saturday October 15, 2005 @08:36PM (#13800159) Journal
    (Below is a copy of a comment [slashdot.org] I made the last time this story was posted. If slashdot editors can dupe, I should be able to as well :)

    Last year Reason had an interview [reason.com] with Neal Stephenson (author of Snow Crash, Cryptonomicon, Quicksilver, and other fine novels), where he was asked about the state of science in America. What he said resonated with me quite a bit:

    The success of the U.S. has not come from one consistent cause, as far as I can make out. Instead the U.S. will find a way to succeed for a few decades based on one thing, then, when that peters out, move on to another. Sometimes there is trouble during the transitions. So, in the early-to-mid-19th century, it was all about expansion westward and a colossal growth in population. After the Civil War, it was about exploitation of the world's richest resource base: iron, steel, coal, the railways, and later oil.

    For much of the 20th century it was about science and technology. The heyday was the Second World War, when we had not just the Manhattan Project but also the Radiation Lab at MIT and a large cryptology industry all cooking along at the same time. The war led into the nuclear arms race and the space race, which led in turn to the revolution in electronics, computers, the Internet, etc. If the emblematic figures of earlier eras were the pioneer with his Kentucky rifle, or the Gilded Age plutocrat, then for the era from, say, 1940 to 2000 it was the engineer, the geek, the scientist. It's no coincidence that this era is also when science fiction has flourished, and in which the whole idea of the Future became current. After all, if you're living in a technocratic society, it seems perfectly reasonable to try to predict the future by extrapolating trends in science and engineering.

    It is quite obvious to me that the U.S. is turning away from all of this. It has been the case for quite a while that the cultural left distrusted geeks and their works; the depiction of technical sorts in popular culture has been overwhelmingly negative for at least a generation now. More recently, the cultural right has apparently decided that it doesn't care for some of what scientists have to say. So the technical class is caught in a pincer between these two wings of the so-called culture war. Of course the broad mass of people don't belong to one wing or the other. But science is all about diligence, hard sustained work over long stretches of time, sweating the details, and abstract thinking, none of which is really being fostered by mainstream culture.
  • by multiplexo ( 27356 ) * on Saturday October 15, 2005 @08:46PM (#13800195) Journal
    the American educational system. Require that all teachers, all professors at public Universities, all elected officials and all appointed judicial offcicials send their kids to public schools for K-12 education. No more Bill Clinton and Al Gore going to Washington D.C and sending their kids off to private schools (Sidwell Friends, St. Albans) that are whiter than the Klan rallies that Al's daddy used to attend. No more Democratic politicians taking fuckloads of money from the teachers unions and then showing what they really think by sending their little darlings off to private schools, and if you're a public school teacher then you shouldn't have any right to your job if you're sending your kid to a private school, by doing so you're admitting that you're doing a shitty job. Quick, dirty and easy to implement. I'm not saying that this would fix all of the problems with our educational system, but I see no reason why our public servants should have the option of opting out of the public education system that we pay for. Let them start eating their own dog food as well as forcing it on the rest of us.

    • Or, why don't we get rid of the dogfood in the first place? Imagine if all K-12 schools were private, and the government completely paid for the education for the poor and gave middle-class students vouchers that paid for it partially. This will finally give all parents access to "free-market education," where they get to choose the schools that best meet their child's needs, rather than be forced to go to a certin public school because it is in your neighborhood (which hinders poor children a lot, becaus

  • by ccmay ( 116316 ) on Saturday October 15, 2005 @09:08PM (#13800274)
    In a press release they call for the immediate increase of teachers and advanced research and development, citing that 'in 2001 U.S. industry spent more on tort litigation than on research and development.'

    That doesn't surprise me, but it should be a clue to all decent and sensible people that things have to change radically. Let's push for the kind of tort reform that will put 90% of the filthy blood-sucking pirates out of business.

    The American legal system is a f**king disgrace. No, scratch that, it's a positive menace to the American way of life. We have turned into a nation of paranoid, selfish sissies, thanks to the pond scum of the trial bar. And the defense attorneys are no better; they don't want the gravy train to end either. I want to annihilate them. I want their children to starve and their wives to go barefoot. I want to cut their dirty greedy balls off with a rusty butter knife.

    Most of all, I want to sweep away a thousand years of arcane gibberish and oppression of the common man, tear the legal system into itty bitty pieces, and rebuild it from the ground up according to principles of logic and common sense and brevity. The greedy vermin of the Bar have been a plague on humanity since the time of the Pharisees, and it has to stop NOW.

    -ccm

  • by AB3A ( 192265 ) on Saturday October 15, 2005 @09:39PM (#13800414) Homepage Journal
    One thing about most of these studies concerning the quality of US education is that it is often influenced by general perceptions from Hollywood movies.

    The reason the US has managed to achieve all the things it has in the worlds of science is because we generally leave smart people alone and give them a relatively free hand to pursue the answers they seek. This is not a race for education. This is not a race for money. This is a race for freedom to explore.

    This is not about hacking code. It's not about secret laboratories where diabolical experiments are performed. It's not about eggheads who decide to get even with the bullies who beat them up. It's about freedom to pursue what we nerds have always wanted to explore. Hollywood doesn't get it. It's also not about homegrown smart people.

    In some ways we're still ahead. In others we're doomed. I'm particularly dismayed by the religious right's policy influence with medical research. However, this country still has silicon valley. In fact, it not only has silicon valley, it has Research Triangle Park, the suburbs of DC, Los Alamos National Labs, and similar collaborative institutions near most major cities.

    Most other countries would give anything to have these informal and pragmatic social institutions where results are rewarded and where failures are detected early and aren't pursued. But no. Those countries have entrusted their governments or large industry groups to guide them. Sometimes it bears fruit. But the solutions aren't usually radical. The truly revolutionary discoveries are often kept on the shelf for further research. Big organizations don't usually know better.

    Now we can squeal and holler about the rotten quality of US educational standards. And it's true. The average education received in public institutions frankly isn't good for much. What the US does differently is that it rewards talent. And by so doing, it often attracts talent from overseas. Yes, we have our own homegrown talent too. But we also count at least as many first generation immigrants among their number.

    Yes, we had Thomas Edison. But we also count Nicholai Tesla along with him. We had Richard Feynnman, but we also count Paul Dirac with him too. We had Robert Goddard, but we also had Werner Von Braun. The Sciences here in the US got a huge head start from these first generation immigrants.

    The only thing we need to ask is whether we're still encouraging and rewarding good work. If we are, then we aren't losing ground.

    Hollywood can can portray these scientists as silly, just as they were portrayed in so many B Movies from the 1950s. No, I wish the reputations were different, but Hollywood is really nothing more than a place for Art students to get even with all of us smug and supercillious engineers and scientists. Most of Hollywood is filled with pretty people, most of couldn't learn enough to be good at much of anything. Thankfully, looking good is nearly all there is to a good career in Hollywood. It's nice that they can get rich doing what they like. I wish it didn't have to be at the expense of the reputation of another pillar of society. But that's no different than it's ever been.
  • by rm3friskerFTN ( 34339 ) on Saturday October 15, 2005 @10:57PM (#13800732) Journal
    A commentary over at Tech Central Station resonated with my own peculiar science & technology resume.

    "Confessions of an Engineering Washout" [techcentralstation.com] by Douglas Kern

    I am an engineering washout. I left a chemical engineering major in shame and disgust to pursue the softer pleasures of a liberal arts education. No, do not pity me, gentle reader; do not assuage your horror and dismay at my degradation by flinging a filthy quarter into my shiny tin cup. Instead, hear my story, and learn why the United States lacks engineers ....[continued] [techcentralstation.com]
    My generalization is that most Professors/Instructors/TAs neither want to teach nor want to learn how to teach even though their primary occupation is teaching. Consequently the USA will continue to have issues churning out science & engineering graduates.

    Recommendations based on memories twenty-years ago:

    + Professors/Instructors/TAs should watch a video tapes of themselves giving lectures or providing assistance during office hours

    + Professors/Instructors/TAs office-hours should occur at reasonable science & engineering times (e.g. immediately after class & late in the evening)

    + Professors/Instructors/TAs should verify that the curriculum at 'SmartyPantsU' is self-consistent. For example, does 2nd year calc really assist with 3rd year electro-dynamics and why the one year gap between learning the subject matter (vector calc) and applying the subject matter (E&M vector calc)?

    + Professors/Instructors/TAs should be engaged in small-lab research that can actively utilize the services of undergrads

    + Continued employment of Professors/Instructors/TAs to include metrics (1) post graduation surveys of alumni at one-year, five-year, ten-year points (2) subject matter GRE scores of graduates (3) end-of-course critiques (4) ???

    + Eliminate Tenure???

    • by jim_deane ( 63059 ) on Sunday October 16, 2005 @12:31AM (#13801185) Journal
      + Eliminate Tenure???

      Great idea! First, though, you will need to raise salaries across the board to compensate. Tenure currently compensates for the lower salaries in academe.

      Otherwise what you'll do is drive those who are able to work outside of academe right out into the non-academic jobs, leaving few to teach at Universities. This will ultimately give them the same job security as they have in the tenure system, because no one will be educated in their fields to compete with them for jobs.

      Jim
  • Slave Labor H1B (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Saturday October 15, 2005 @11:25PM (#13800820) Journal
    If these students get job offers and pass a security screening test, they should automatically get work permits and expedited residence status. If they cannot get a job, their visas should expire.

    This kind of thinking is why we are competing against desparate slave tech labor. I worked with one H1B who was only paid once every six months. Companies know they can pull this kind of shit with 3rd-world workers and that is why they liked them. Blame our education all you want, but I've seen the real story with my own eyes. Intel spinners can go to hell.
           
  • by TheNarrator ( 200498 ) on Sunday October 16, 2005 @03:41AM (#13802029)
    In the U.S a good engineer makes $100,000 a year. Somebody who works at Mcdonalds makes $15,000 a year.

    In India a good engineer makes $40,000 a year. Somebody who works at the local noodle shop makes $1000 a year.

    So if we had a similar wage differential in the U.S an engineer would make $600,000 a year. If engineers made that much I am positive that there would be a huge rush for people to be engineers. It all comes down to simple economics.

"I never let my schooling get in the way of my education." -- Mark Twain

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