According to this article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/11/top-jobs-for-grads-nace-2_n_847505.html engineering jobs are doing quite well. This http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/nov2008/tc20081113_488542.htm seems to suggest it might even be sexy!
It seems the first article in the main post talks about STEM but doesn't provide any real evidence but may be talking about an article noting the brain drain of the finance world and that the percentage of MIT grads going into finance increased. It was not the majority. This isn't a bad thing. I am a software engineer with a BS in computer science and an MS in computer engineering. I worked on financial software, device drivers, internet advertising software, remote control car embedded software, and wireless meshing software. STEM can take you into all sorts of industries. I don't know why this is a bad thing and I don't think that was what the President was saying.
The author says, "First, American culture has always realized this 'stuff' is important." I find that hard to believe. When I was in school, there were almost no computer science majors. My graduation had 3 CS majors walk with me with over 10,000 students enrolled at the university. Other STEM majors did a bit better but the reality is that our society looks down on STEM folks. It is considered weird and odd. Hollywood uses this stereotype often because the public believes it. We are geeks, nerds, dorks, etc. STEM really does need better PR since keeping the world running doesn't seem to matter much anymore.
The second article attacks pure science jobs. Most folks that major in STEM probably do not go on to pure research jobs. Why is this a bad thing? Many folks become engineers and use the research to create other things. They compare school teachers to scientists even though many are both. Many "pure" researches are college professors. "The women I know who are university professors, by and large, are unmarried and childless. By the time they get tenure, they are on the verge of infertility. " My wife is a university professor and we have two kids thank you. I know several other professional female mathematicians who married and had kids. It seems they these folks get married at the same rate as most other folks and have kids at about the same rate too. Also, the author ignores that the PhD can go into public school teaching and will be paid extra for having the degree. They can leave college and go into the private sector. Some do both. My wife programmed for a while and then came back to teaching because she liked teaching a lot more.
"men tend to lack perspective and are unable to step back and ask the question 'is this peer group worth impressing?' " That is an incredibly sexist statement. Does the author have any proof that women do not do the same? As far as I can tell the sentence should be changed to "people sometimes lack perspective..."
"When Albert goes to graduate school to get his PhD, his choice will have the same logical foundation as John Hinckley's attempt to impress Jodie Foster by shooting Ronald Reagan. " The author compares getting a PhD to being a stalker. This is why STEM needs better PR! Americans see most PhDs as potential stalkers who are just trying to impress the other potential stalkers. Maybe someone gets a PhD because they are actually really interested in the field and really want to study it for its own sake. Maybe someone cares about something other than money. Maybe there is more to life satisfaction than just making more money. Do you want a job that pays 20% more that you will hate or a job that you will love? Perhaps the PhD candidate is actually smarter enough to do what he/she loves.
"What about women? Don't they want to impress their peers? Yes, but they are more discriminating about choosing those peers." Really? There are many pieces of media about who girls get caught up trying to impress the wrong peers. Are they all wrong? I have female friends and relatives that have fallen into this trap just as much as my male friends and relatives.
"If you are extremely introverted, you might prefer to work as a computer programmer. " I work as a computer programmer and I have developed many great friendships through this field. I met my wife through a fellow programmer. I have friends that have been there for well over a decade through my career as a programmer. Contrary to popular belief, computer programmers do have to talk and work with other people, even non-programmers. I have work with folks in documentation, testing, marketing, sales, accounting, finance, etc. I find that introverted folks are only good at a very limited subset of programming. Most complex problems require teamwork.
"For whatever reason we've decided that science in America should be done by low-paid immigrants." What? 1. What is wrong with immigrants? 2. Who says that immigrants are the majority of scientists? 3. Who even cares? I have worked with folks from many corners of the earth and been richer for it. It has not hurt my career and in fact has helped it as I have seen things from very different points of view. If someone is going to try to outwork me for less money, than I will just try to make myself more valuable to justify earning more than them. Life is competitive. Get over it when someone from another country out works you. Prove that you deserve your salary but being more productive than the other person.
"Imagine if one of those kind souls that Summers was speaking to had taken Condoleezza Rice aside and told her not to waste time with political science because physics was so much more challenging. Just think how far she might have gone... " She seems smart. Perhaps she would have discovered something that would have changed the world for the better. Perhaps should would have changed our view of the universe itself. But perhaps she would not have made as much money. Perhaps that isn't always the most important thing.