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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/4657/the-myth-of-the-math-and-science-shortage/

The Myth of the Math and Science Shortage

February 6, 2006 by

Bush is not only raising false hopes, diverting career paths, and wasting money; he is raising a non-problem and purporting to solve it with a non-solution. The central-planning approach to boosting science was tried and failed in every totalitarian country, and the same will be true in nominally free ones as well. Still, it seems that megalomaniacs just can’t resist the urge to push the idea, which is why mathematicians and scientists leftover from Soviet days are driving cabs and tending bars in today’s Russia. FULL ARTICLE

{ 60 comments }

Ulrich Hobelmann February 7, 2006 at 2:30 am

Someone should stick this to the Germans, or they’ll never learn.

Everyday another cry “more women into engineering”, “more young students into science”, and (sadly without the quotation marks) more money pouring into education, all allocated by the plan-economy.

Ulrich Hobelmann February 7, 2006 at 2:33 am

Oh, do I need to add that many graduates are unemployed for a couple of years, before finding *any* job?

Free education means that many young people are encouraged to waste their time on career dead-ends, studying subjects that nobody wants to employ, all in the name of “educatedness”.

Dave Mitchell February 7, 2006 at 7:17 am

Dubya aside, it seemeth to me that we are becoming a nation of dolts. Horror stories abound about how Johnny and Mary can’t read,add, find anything on a map, find their foot, etc. Granted, the central planners would throw our money at a useless educational bureaucracy, but it does appear that we are importing much of our science brains.
Free tradewise, what will we do when we have nothing to offer the world but our worn out credit cards and our stomachs?

Caleob T. King February 7, 2006 at 7:58 am

As a recently graduated engineering student I can say that, especially at the masters and PhD levels, foreign students were a majority.

As far as I can tell, though, this has less to do with a shortage of American students as with the way we grant Visas in this country. American students are responding to one set of economic circumstances (a glut of PhD’s) while foreign students are staying as long as possible on a student Visa while maximizing their chances of a work Visa after graduation. The two groups are essential in totally separate markets.

Mathieu Bedard February 7, 2006 at 8:12 am

Toqueville wrote after his trip to the US “There are no nation in the world with fewer idiots and more educated people”. Where are we now?..

Nick February 7, 2006 at 8:32 am

There is one flaw that I can see in your arguments.

The demand side, what to study is down to lots of individuals, and as you point out they will pick what they think is best for themselves.

However, on the supply side, in lots of countries you have a state controlled supply that is inflexible. That’s the problem.

As for wages for mathematicians, go out and investigate what a decent quant analyst can earn in a bank. Its around the 7 figure mark.

Matthew Armstrong February 7, 2006 at 8:37 am

Great article. Let’s add the NASA boondoggle to the mix. The great defense of the billions spent on the space program is the fact that it promotes science to the wee lads and lassies. Or has the official reason become that it protects us from Bin Laden’s star cruisers?

Neil Craig February 7, 2006 at 8:55 am

“The reason the whole math and science racket bamboozles us again and again has to do with our own limitations and our perceptions of foreign countries. We think: heck I know nothing of these subjects, so I can believe that there is a shortage”

This is indicative. A free market works fairly well in teeth cleaning (though I note both the US & UK are importing dentists from Rumania) but genius is a very limited quantity & we should do everything not to discourage it. In the long term, even longer than the 5-10 years accountants work on, all progress comes from relatively few scientists.

Galileo’s father, who was himself a mathmatician (& thus had something approaching the perfect market knowledge most teens choosing their future careers don’t) went to considerable lengths to persuade his son to take up doctoring, or pretty much anything but being a mathemtician because the pay stunk. In libertarian market terms this was the correct decision.

Fortunately Galileo didn’t take it.

Brian Drum February 7, 2006 at 9:02 am

Neil,

In libertarian market terms this was the correct decision.

Are you saying the “correct” decision was for Galileo to become a doctor? What makes this choice the “correct” choice in “libertarian market terms”? I think that whatever profession Galileo chose voluntarily for himself would be the “correct” choice in “libertarian market terms”.

Marco February 7, 2006 at 9:10 am

I don’t think “libertarian market terms” means anything, but if I’d been Galileo’s father I would have done the same. Being a doctor was not only more productive but much less dangerous than being a scientist or a philosopher (at the time there was no difference).

Krishna van den Brule February 7, 2006 at 9:12 am

I only regret the absence of an explanation of why lawyers earn so much more than other ….

Fluffy Economist February 7, 2006 at 9:32 am

Only Neil Craig has touched on the issue of informaion asymmetries in the labour market. As someone about to graduate, we just don’t know what the relative wage levels are, still less when leaving school when we choose our degrees to lead to a career. Governments could help the situation by publishing extensive surveys to school leavers to attenuate the problem and leave them to make their own choices.

Lastly, wage levels aren’t the only things that attract students to jobs. Many make lifestyle choices or are driven by a moral concerns. For myself and my friends – very well educated, fairly intelligent – high paying careers in the City would be a cinch, yet many are choosing careers with NGOs and the diplomatic service.

Jean Paul Taylor February 7, 2006 at 10:19 am

I appreciate your article about the gov deciding what sort of work we, the great unwashed, should involve ourselves with. I speak as a victim of that great cold war hoax, the space race. In the early sixties we all wanted – having taken our cues from the ‘experts’- to be scientists and engineers, by the end of the sixties we managed to subvert ourselves. We became bad poets and petty sexual adventurers!
Oh well! I did learn German, as the we were told that a strong grounding in German and/or Latin would be most beneficial. I did not however end up as a scientist, but rather a lover of Goethe, Schiller, and Mann!

Frank Paine February 7, 2006 at 11:13 am

An excellent article. Shades of the post-Sputnik era–we’ve heard all this before, and nothing’s changed.

Casey Khan February 7, 2006 at 11:27 am

There is one shortage the state is glad to see, a shortage of people who actually understand economics.

JD February 7, 2006 at 11:32 am

Mr. Rockwell should ask his entire staff to take a week off and read John Taylor Gatto’s “The Underground history of American Education”. The complete text is available at:

http://www.johntaylorgatto.com/chapters/index.htm

Curt Howland February 7, 2006 at 12:02 pm

Krishna, being a “lawyer” is a regulated monopoly. In order to be a lawyer, you have to pass a “barr” exam. This is a test administered by lawyers for lawyers and recognized because all judges and most politicians are lawyers.

All laws are written by lawyers, they are voted upon and enacted and enforced by lawyers.

Where is the mystery about their pay rate?

MarkN February 7, 2006 at 12:14 pm

Some of us old guys may remember C.P. Snow’s letter to the journal, Science, back in the 1960s. He simply projected into the future the rate at which new science PhDs were being produced and predicted that, by the end of the century (or earlier), everyone in the US would have a PhD in science.

I don’t have the exact reference but it might be: Snow, CP Government Science and Public Policy. Science, Vol. 151, (1966).

Vince Daliessio February 7, 2006 at 12:16 pm

There’s another explanation for disparities between math and science and other fields of study, particularly with regard to factors such as gender and race – law and medicine are heavily regulated institutions completely permeated by the state. Engineering is less so, and computer programming not at all yet. If the state, for example, wants women to be at parity in law and medicine, all it has to do is wave a wand to make it so. Not so with engineering or computer programming. In fact, mathematical incompetence is no less disastrous in law or medicine than in engineering or programming – just that this incompetence is swiftly punished in engineering, while in law or medicine, incompetents are protected by the ABA and the AMA.

Boy, am I gonna get it over this one. But I have a point.

David K.Meller February 7, 2006 at 12:30 pm

One more excuse to attack the market, in this case, people’s choices regarding math,computer skills and the sciences. The fact is however, that the main “failure”, according to the government, is not a LACK OF education in these fields, but that math and science talent is not equally distributed, and that the education does not(and cannot) produce uniform results, e.g. equality, and hence calls for state action to “remedy” the inequality in our society, demonstrated by the fact that White and Asian males,(especially Pacific rim peoples, Indians, and Central and Eastern European Jews), are greatly “over-represented” in terms of talent and aptitude, and nonwhites(except for Asians) and females are, (quite naturally) represented in other disciplines elsewhere.This is taken to be a “failure” of the educational system and the proposed “remedies” all involve extensive political action with all of the attendent waste, misdirection of scarce resources, and corruption.

Indeed,in the same vein, a few months ago, a widely respected educator,Lawrence Summers, President of Harvard University, made a version of this commonplace, self-evident, axiomatic observation when he observed that there were many more Harvard boys than girls who majored in (and did very well in) Math. Instead of accepting this as a part of the natural order of things, egalitarians,(this time of the feminist brigade) made the silliest possible show of themselves asserting that it was a result of a failure of higher education, and hugh amounts of time, money and effort must be diverted to improve math and science education for girls which makes as much sense as subsidies to grow bananas in Finland, drill for oil in the Everglades, and go diamond mining in Iowa, rather than seeking resources where they are actually available.

This entire exercise in political idiocy is one more show of politicans discovering “problems” which somehow need a “solution”, that only they and their “planning” can provide and they then go and make things much worse for everybody.

Tell President Bush that we can muddle along with what we have, and let HIM figure a way out of the Afghan and Iraq messes that are so largely the result of previous American intervention, that won’t cause too much damage, and leave Science education, and everything else, alone!

PEACE AND FREEDOM
David K.Meller
dkmeller1953@yahoo.com

Patrick Barron February 7, 2006 at 12:47 pm

Lew asks why politicians keep harping on this subject. I think the answer is rather simple. They want us to think that they are foreward thinking, have insight into vast problems that escape the rest of us and are hard to disprove, and above all make us think that we need them. We don’t.

JD February 7, 2006 at 1:02 pm

Patrick is correct. We don’t need them.

Those who do need them, and can afford them, purchase them.

JD February 7, 2006 at 1:02 pm

Patrick is correct. We don’t need them.

Those who do need them, and can afford them, purchase them.

Robert Galloway February 7, 2006 at 4:51 pm

I agree that the market should dictate how many scientists and mathematicians we produce. I disagree in one small area. The mathematics used in science, business and most areas of life are best learned young. Mathematics training in the elementary grades needs to be upgraded dramatically. A facility with math won’t serve as a handicap to a concert pianist, to my knowledge but to anyone who requires facility with math, the foundation is best laid early.
Sincerely,

Robert H. Galloway

Harry Valentine February 7, 2006 at 4:56 pm

Math can be taught via homeschooling and online learning, as can science. Science documentaries are educational and enjoyable to watch (the joy of learning).

Today in the USA, government schools are teaching irrational mathematics that has no relevance to the real world. The science that is taught is little better. Government schools will numb the minds of their inmates and incapacitate their ability to think. This science and math shortage is government perversion ot its worst.

Thomas Alva Edison with minimal schooling proved that a self-taught individual can be capable of astounding achievements when they act on their own ingenuity and initiative.

William February 7, 2006 at 5:03 pm

Bush is simply praying on fear. Lots of technical folks come from outside the country. This way he can say see these folks are taking math and science jobs because American are not interested in spending 6 to 8 years after 4 years of college. And if this continues all math and science jobs will be done by foreigners and we are all going to die….

Of course the media, realizing that the state is trying to control more of peoples lives, just jumps on the bandwagon. They, Bush, congress, the medial, the National Science Foundation, etc never bother to examine things like:
What is a PHD really good for?
Do I really need a PHD to do technical work? Bill Gates did not have one, nor Bob W?

So we end up with a huge government program to recruit more folks into a profession that they are not interested in being in for their own good. And they eventually drop out but no-one cares because the latest president is now concerned about the lack of American science and math PHDs.

Funny how what comes around goes around.

happyjuggler0 February 7, 2006 at 9:38 pm

I guess I am alone here, but where are the comparisons between those who majored in things like English, Journalism, Art etc. compared to the salaries of those who majored in Math, Engineering, Biology etc.?

I strongly suspect those in the logic-based professions make much more than the ones who spent tons of time in creative writing or art appreciation. I think Bush nailed the problem on the head and got the prescription radically wrong.

Far too many people I’ve known went to college and afterwards wondered why the hell they majored in communications when they’d have made so much more money doing something in the computer field.

If Bush wants to mandate something, let him mandate the disemination of accurate salary numbers to incoming college students and incoming 9th-graders, and let the market take care of the rest.

George February 7, 2006 at 10:04 pm

Hi Lew,

The President is just trying to say that he has interest in other subjects besides forcing Democracy on Iraq. He has been in office all that time never to mention any thing about fuel economy or energy conservation. His advisors and supporters (Rush Limbaugh is a good example) appear to insist on driving the biggest SUV that they can find. Now, President Bush just discovered that we are addicted to oil!

Best regards.

George

Michael February 7, 2006 at 10:22 pm

Some CEO on Charlie Rose the other day said many tech and science companies spend more on litigation than R&D. I agreed with him when he said this should be disconcerting. He made vague references to patent reform.

Government intervention probably causes more demand for lawyers than scientists. The unhampered market probably has more use for scientists than lawyers.

jeff February 8, 2006 at 7:06 am

While I whole heartedly agree with the premise of the article, there is one aspect of a lack of people that disturbs me. In an increasingly technologically oriented world,if we fail to develop people with the skills to create software, will we substitute software for oil as a real point of vulnerability for this country. Will the United States go on bended knees to India and China because Americans can’t or won’t know how to create software? Part of the answer lies in the dollars that companies are not willing to pay, but will pay lower rates overseas. While I see the market at work here, I think there is an inherent danger in being ill prepared for the future.

Ryan Fuller February 8, 2006 at 7:29 am

Jeff,

Certainly if there’s one organization that has demonstrated a total inability to see the future beyond the next election cycle, it’s government.

Yancey Ward February 8, 2006 at 9:02 am

The problem is the primary and secondary education systems, which, lo and behold, are largely run by the government. As Robert Galloway wrote above, mathematics something that is best learned early in life, not at age 17, or in college. Just look at the curricula itself, and not just the atrocious methodologies used today in the school systems. We vastly underestimate the intellectual skills of children, and the government run education systems expect far too little from them.

Of course, the popular reforms will not address any of this. Government will never admit its own failures.

LHR, Jr. February 8, 2006 at 9:43 am

A note I received: “It’s actually much worst than you say. As a result of previous government attempts to produce more scientists than the market wants, there are now too many scientists and mathematicians. The number is too large by at least a factor of 2, more likely a factor of 10. One indication of overproduction is that the salary of a mathematician was equal to that of a dentist 50 years ago, but now a mathematician’s salary is lower by a factor of 3. Too many scientists hold up the advance of science. In 1905, when Einstein published his relativity theory, a physicist had to submit 3 papers to have an even chance of having a Nobel Prize winner as a referee. Now the number is 700. Einstein’s referees were Max Planck and Wilhelm Wien, both Nobelists. Today, his papers would have been refereed by some jerk at Podunk U, who would reject them. I’ve discovered that most recent
Nobelists have complained that their Nobel winning work had difficulties getting past the referees. The reason is too many scientists, which increases the number of idiots to geniuses in the referee pool.”

Curt Howland February 8, 2006 at 11:15 am

As someone who is/wants to homeschool, I can tell you that government has been very successful in demonizing homeschooling. The “socialization” myth is impossible to overcome.

Even when I point out the academic benefits, what comes back is even more repulsive: “[insert Prussian model school here, public or private]‘s real benefit is socialization, not academics anyway.”

That may be why so little furor is coming from parents in the public school system about the abominable academic performance. Those who care, like me, already do something about it. The children left are those who are there because it’s “free day-care”.

Yancey Ward February 8, 2006 at 1:00 pm

Curt Howland,

I have read, over the years, many instances where the parents of homeschooled children attempted to address the socialization “problem” by having their children participate in the extracurricular activities of the local public school, but the schools refused to allow the homeschooled children to do so. This can only be due to pure spite since the parents are still paying the local property and the state/federal taxes that fund these schools.

Curt Howland February 8, 2006 at 1:27 pm

Yancy, I could not agree more. The bald face of Corruption indeed.

Did you get a chance to see John Stossel’s 20/20 from January 13, 2006? If you’re not in the US, since I cannot suggest anyone in the US violate copyright, you can pluck the video file from http://www.mininova.org

Unfortunately for a “libertarian”, the only alternative he features is vouchers. However, the show does delve deeply into the horrors that are American public schools, and having seen Japan I can suggest these same problems infest every school based on the Prussian model.

I recommend the show to anyone interested in why schools don’t seem to be working, so long as they remember the words of von Mises about “reforming” a government program. That is, “reforming” only makes more and different, worse, problems. Repeal, abolish, then people create solutions.

Paul Edwards February 8, 2006 at 3:30 pm

Yancey,

In my opinion, the lack of socialization of our children with children in the public school system is a plus. I am not saying that some wonderful people don’t come out of the public school system, they do (i did ;) ). It’s just not worth it.

My goal is to raise wise, interesting and thoughtful adults who can interact well with other adults in real life. That’s what you get when your children hang out and interact with adults and children known to be of that sort of character. There is never an instant where i ever think “i wish my children were more influenced by the children their age attending public school”. That thought is just way too out there.

I think most home-schoolers eventually come to the same realization; that constructive socialization is not sitting in a state classroom, not speaking till spoken to by a representative of the establishment with the other children sitting there also for the purpose of learning to take an order. Well, I guess some of that is my anarchist perspective speaking, but I think a bit of a defiant undertone like that develops in a home-school parent after some time and reflection.

Laurie Miller February 8, 2006 at 4:25 pm

Does anybody know of a place, anywhere in the U.S., where there is a shortage of Computer Science and Engineering professionals? Here in northern Colorado, we have many such professionals, with stellar experience and advanced degrees from top universities, looking for work desperately. They’re “alumni” of Hewlett Packard, Agilent, Celestica, LSI, etc., and can’t even get INTERVIEWS. (Professionals of both genders, I might add.)

R.P. McCosker February 8, 2006 at 4:27 pm

I think there are two main factors that drive politicians to push programs for math/science “R&D” and “education”.

First, most people just aren’t very good at those subjects, and are intimidated by and envious of those who are and what they achieve.

Since politicians are always on the lookout for electorally acceptable ways to increase their power, selling the public on the idea that more government expenditure and direction will increase the benefits that can derive from math and science is a good method. The public is far to ignorant of sound economics to “get” that such an approach merely redistributes and misdirects the intellectual and other capital available for such undertakings.

Second, the politicians themselves — who prefer to believe that State coercion rather than peaceful exchange is the source of societal strength — want to have a lot of “defense” (war technology) researchers available to the State to employ. In particular, they fondly recall how the federal regime successfully recruited from America’s relatively ample supply of physical scientists to undertake the Manhattan Project.

And it’s somewhat correct: The US State’s warmaking technique worked better than any other country’s during WWII. When you have different socialist warmaking systems competing for each other’s destruction, *somebody* has to win. (The US was much aided at the time because, of all the major players in that war, its domestic economy was the most free, but statists prefer to disregard that.)

So our political class — remember that both parties support US aggression against the Islamic world and keeping the US’s military presence in 140+ countries — is naturally eager to promote ideas it hopes will add muscle to America’s imperialist enterprises, while providing yet another excuse to further expand the State at home.

Dr. Rodney Harris February 8, 2006 at 5:07 pm

Lew’s artical really hit home for me. Growing up in the space age, I put in the hard work to get a degree in Aerospace engineering. Upon graduation, I found that space related jobs were few and hard to get. I joined the ‘Military Industrial Complex’ and had an interesting and satisfying job – until the Cold War ended. Then, we enginers were cast out like yesterday’s newspaper. I went back to school and put in another hard 7 years and earned a PhD in Biochemistry. Now, I find I have to put in at least 5 years as a low-paid post-doc before I can get a “real” job. My brother, who never went to college and works in a (non-union) factory, makes more money than me.

First, I agree with Lew that the government is not conspiring to push people into math and science to make engineers cheaper, as they are not that far thinking. But, I see it as a desire to keep a large pool of talant graduating each year so that there is a reduced startup time for any new and wonderful projects (Mars anyone?) that might come along. But, as most government projects, they are subject to cancelation with the next administration (so that they can start the next new and wonderful project).

Most engineers (and other ‘math and science’ professions) are well paid. Most of the trade magazines list salary figures for the different areas of interest. Students put in the hard work because they expect to find these jobs when they graduate. But, what is not seen ahead of time is the oversupply. Getting that job may take a long time (if at all). When I first graduated with an Aerospace degree, it was a down year. I had to spend 2 more years in school getting a master’s degree until the Reagan defense (over)spending kicked in. If that had not happend, I may have had to learn to use a paintbrush.

After the layoffs at the end of the cold war, I decided to go into Biotech as the industry was growing fast, the salaries were comparable, and it was not government controlled (or so I thought). I find that the 5-year post-doc requirement is not so much as a rule, but, because most post-doc grants are paid for by the government, industry uses the system to get 5 years of free training for their new workers. I love my job and its chalanges, but it would be nice to not to have to wait 5 years for better pay at a “real” job.
Every time I hear a government offical say we need more “math and science” graduates, I want to ask him what planet he/she lives on?

Joshua Katz February 8, 2006 at 11:22 pm

Indeed, show me this math shortage (anywhere but public schools) and I’ll have my bags packed to move there in a heartbeat. I speak to companies and hear “oh, another mathematician.” Have anything to do with government subsidized graduate training?

Hadassa DeYoung February 9, 2006 at 12:17 am

Based on statistics that I’ve seen over the past 20 years more attention should be devoted to teaching children the basics of writing and math than to influencing the professional choices that adults make. (Parents are of course ultimately responsible for their children’s education. Good teachers exist because of intelligent usage of division of labor.) To hear of so many people who reach adulthood unable to write a decent paper or maintain accurate personal financial records is saddening.

Jerald E. Goehring February 9, 2006 at 12:35 am

Just a couple of anecdotes:
I was just entering the eighth grade when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik. At the time, I thought I would like to enter medicine or engineering. Engineering won out since being a doctor required more years of college and I thought I could do well enough with just a BS in engineering. When it came time to choose a major, Chemical Engineering won out over Electrical Engineering because most of my EE friends were being interviewed by government defense contractors or the government directly, and I wanted to do something besides think of better ways to kill people. Generally, I was happy with my earning capacity in my chosen profession until about 4 years ago when I was laid-off about two weeks before 9/11, I couldn’t get an interview (let alone a job) given my age and the glut of Chemical Engineers caused mostly by the Government’s H1B and L1 visa programs.
One of my daughters is a Registered Nurse. Shortly after she began working, I asked her if many of her colleagues were foreigners – Asians or Latinos. She told me that 8 of the ten nurses on her shift on her floor were from Canada. This was shortly after the Socialists in Canada had nationalized their health-care industry.

Yancey Ward February 9, 2006 at 8:32 am

Joshua, Katz,

If you haven’t considered Wall Street, you might look into it. I read recently that mathematicians are in increasing demand in finance. I don’t know whether it is true or not, but I thought I might pass along the idea.

Neil Craig February 9, 2006 at 10:03 am

So Galileo’s dad would have been right about not becoming a mathmatician if his son had fitted anywhere near the cente of the curve? Perhaps so. In which case the problem becomes spotting genius before it appears & encouraging it. Apart from Robert Galloway’s point about improving early maths teaching this seems to be something in which normal money economics, of either wing, breaks down because they are, by definition, dealing with large statistical populations.

Will T.Patton Jr. February 9, 2006 at 8:05 pm

Why do we continue to see American companies outsource their manufacturing and engineering jobs?Is it because of our lack of technical expertise or have we priced ourselves out of competition due to our high overhead caused by taxation,entitlement programs,high cost infrastructure and the burden of immigrants from all over the world?Have we all become complacent?Shouldn’t we be concerned about our 700 plus dollar trade defecit?I have always believed that a good “foundation” in math and English would prepare you for many choices of jobs later in life!

Will T.Patton Jr. February 9, 2006 at 8:07 pm

Why do we continue to see American companies outsource their manufacturing and engineering jobs?Is it because of our lack of technical expertise or have we priced ourselves out of competition due to our high overhead caused by taxation,entitlement programs,high cost infrastructure and the burden of immigrants from all over the world?Have we all become complacent?Shouldn’t we be concerned about our 700 plus dollar trade defecit?I have always believed that a good “foundation” in math and English would prepare you for many choices of jobs later in life!

Nancy Gierach February 10, 2006 at 12:17 pm

Yes, I am wondering the same thing. I just got a “worthless” MST (Masters in Teaching) in Mathematics. So far I have earned $9,000.00 in one year teaching 3 courses in beginning math at junior colleges. Besides the fact is that I owe $60,000 to Uncle Sam in student loans. I was kicked out of the certification program during student teaching. The students lacked discipline and used physical force against me to push me out the door, a criminal act in Illinois, but this gave the school district an excuse to get rid of me instead. Since I learned enough to teach at the college level, I believe that the President’s propaganda is a “make work” project for education. The strategy is to get rid of teacher candidates at the last possible moment rather than certify them so they can get jobs that pay a living wage. I student taught for ten weeks simply for the convenience of the “mentor teachers” personal lives, since I worked for free and they got paid for the work I was doing. I fall directly into the adjunct AP Math Teacher category the President was talking about implementing in the State of the Union Address. However, just like the No Child Left Behind Act, this program will probably not be Federally funded and so it will be a failure at the local level. The last thing I would add is that the AP Math program is not feasible unless the student is highly talented and has taken the prerequisite coursework, normally four years of high school math, prior to taking the AP Math courses. This means that the student would have to have started along this path in grade school or take more than one math course per year in order to take AP math (college level Calculus and/or Statistics).

nt2000 February 10, 2006 at 8:48 pm
– totally incorrect. Just look at the number and quality of the USSR scientists, and China’s by the way…

Quequeg February 15, 2006 at 3:15 am

Besides the many reasons given above, I can think of 2 other reasons that the government pushes education:

1) To increase the supply of talented workers for our corporations (who basically run our government). A year ago, Bill Gates was trying to get more people to go into computers, even though Microsoft only hires less than 2% of applicants. But still, a greater supply of applicants would be beneficial for companies, because then they can get an even finer cream which can be skimmed off, leaving the rest for the drain.

2) The constant story in the media about how dumb/lazy we are and how bad K-12 is, gives companies an excuse to hire H-1B and L-1 workers and to outsource jobs. The corporate/government spokespeople can say, “well, we’d like to hire Americans, but Americans are just lousy workers. So, we need to export jobs and import workers. Oh, and we need to set aside a little money for education too, so that one day Americans will be qualified for the jobs.” The day after Bush gave his State-of-the-Union speech, he went to Minneapolis and gave another speech in which he talked about the need to lift all limits on H-1B visas.

By the way, there are at least a dozen states in which 8th grade students score very well on international exams. These are states that are not burdened by an underclass of illegal immigrants. If we want to improve K-12, we should stop allowing illegal immigrants to attend our public schools.

Also, America has more engineers per capita than any other country besides Isreal.

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