Why We're Short on Scientists
Cass Sunstein doesn't think we're doing enough to prepare them in high school
By Kevin Spak, Newser User
Posted Jul 18, 2013 12:57 PM CDT

(Newser) – Why is the US falling behind in science? Why are fewer people earning science and engineering degrees here than in, say, China and Japan? Cass Sunstein at Bloomberg thinks the answer lies in a new study that found that while 19.8% of kids entering college are interested in majoring in science—more than any other discipline—only 7.4% actually do. The study shows that many of these would-be scientists had unrealistically high expectations of their own performance, and bolted when their grades disappointed.

To Sunstein, that indicates that our high schools aren't doing a good enough job preparing would-be scientists to succeed in college. We need to fix that, primarily through reform at the state and local level. "The US can't tolerate a situation in which its students enter college with real enthusiasm for science, only to discover they aren't up to it. The nation's economy relies on a steady infusion of scientific talent." Click for Sunstein's full piece.

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Aug 7, 2013 9:34 PM CDT
Big deal. The former Soviet Union produced scientists and mathematicians by the boatload, so where did it get them? I used to see lots of them sweeping the streets of Beersheba in Israel when I lived there in the 1990s, referring to mostly Russian-Jewish scientists and mathematicians who emigrated to Israel. But only the really good ones made it. It's not the degree that counts but what you can DO with it that matters.We definitely need better vocational and technical training in our high schools. We are definitely deficient there and we have to make up for it. But not go overboard. The intrinsic interest and talent has to be there, but good teachers can bring out that latent talent if they are available. I'm sure the US will catch up again, but we can't stop other countries, such as China, India and the rest from producing them as well.
Jul 22, 2013 6:00 AM CDT
I entered a PhD program in interdisciplinary mathematical physics and applied mathematics and I did my qualifier exams in physics (4 full days of closed book exams) and an afternoon exam on digital image processing because I was assigned research in making an algorithm that used inertial tensors in shape recognition. The reason I entered the program was because there was no more work available as an aircraft mechanic as airports closed down and I could make $20,000 a year as a professional student. This was a little more than enough no longer to qualify for food stamps. It lasted five years and it was the best alternative the economy had to offer. I made good grades, only two were not A including the masters degree programs I did several years earlier during the great science and math teacher shortage hoax that apparently was designed to flood the job market with surplus teacher applicants. As expected, after I graduated I could find no post-doctorate jobs so I took a pay cut and do adjunct faculty. I am close to poverty level, but if I had it to do over again I would still do my PhD because it gives me a dignity that such fraudulent pseudo-intellectuals as Sarah Palin and Rush Laibaugh (who dropped out of college in his first semester to take a job promoting that sultan of junk culture, Michael Jackson) and Mr. Dre who flunked out of high school self-conferred the title "Doctor" without ever having earned it in any university cannot respect, but at least they don't count when they accuse science and math PhD's whom a presidential candidate calumniated are among the 47% who "do not take responsibility for their lives." I can say, "I don't have to listen to country music instead of going to the the symphony, I don't have to drink Budweiser, eat McDonald's and grow a beer belly while watching sports ans soap operas on television instead of working out with weights, I don't have to wear a baseball hat backwards and smoke because I have PhD. It is true that if I did not own my home by the time I went back to graduate school I would be homeless and I would not even have the minuscule income adjunct faculty provides, but the American pop culture and the economic system that has metastasized throughout the entire developed world along with fast food and junk culture music is not only about to plunge all but a minuscule elite few into economic poverty, it want to damn out lives into American Idol ghetto trailer park cultural squalor that you can only get away with rejecting if you have a PhD. When they claim opportunities in STEM, don't believe it. It is another scam akin to wanting to replace social security with rigged mandatory stock market investments that are designed to transform older people into street people.
Jul 22, 2013 12:12 AM CDT
I have and daughter with an Electrical Engineering degree and and son with and Optical Engineering degree. Niether of them can find a job. Short on Scientists? I don't think so.