Education: Jobs and Global Trade, Part 3

(a crisis which involves the steady erosion of America's scientific and engineering base has been going on for several years)

There is no better way to flatten the world than by making all of the world's knowledge; or even just a big chunk of it, available to anyone and everyone, anytime, anywhere!

"The truth is, we [United States] are in a crisis now, but it is a crisis that is unfolding very slowly and very quietly. It is 'a quiet crisis,' explained Shirley Ann Jackson, the 2004 president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute since 1999. (Rensselaer is America's oldest technological college, founded in 1824.)"

This quiet crisis involves the steady erosion of America's scientific and engineering base, which has always been the source of American innovation and our rising standard of living.

According Ms. Jackson, "The U.S. is still the leading engine for innovation in the world. It has the best graduate programs, the best scientific infrasturcture, and the capital markets to exploit it; but there is a quiet crisis in U.S. science and technology which we should be aware of.

The U.S. today is in a truly global environment, and those competitor countries are not only wide awake, they are running a marathon while we are running sprints. If left unchecked, this could challenge our pre-eminence and capacity to innovate."

  • It is our ability to constantly innovate new products, services, and companies that has been the source of America's horn of plenty as well as the steadily widening middle class for the last two centuries.
  • It was American innovators who started Google, Intel, HP, Dell, Microsoft, Apple, and Cisco; and it matters where innovation happens.
  • The fact that all of these companies are headquarted in America means that most of the high-paying jobs are here, even if these companies outsource or offshore some functions.
  • The shrinking of the pool of young people with the knowledge skills to innovate won't shrink our standard of living overnight.
  • It will be felt only in fifteen or twenty years, when we discover we have a critical shortage of scientists and engineers capable of doing innovations or even just high-value-added technology work.
  • As the years have passed, it has been observed that fewer and fewer young Americans have been captivated by national challenges like the race to the moon, or felt the allure of math, science, and engineering.
  • It is noted that graduate enrollment in science and engineering programs, having grown for decades, peaked in 1993, and despite some recent progress, it remains today below the level of a decade ago.
  • Shortages of engineers and science faculty in the U.S.

  • Traditionally the U.S. made up for any shortages of engineers and science faculty by educating more at home and importing more from abroad, but both of those remedies have been stalled of late.
  • The Natioinal Science Board has observed a "troubling decline in the number of U.S. citizens who are training to become scientists and engineers, whereas the number of jobs requiring science and engineering training continues to grow."
  • These trends threaten the economic welfare and security of our country, it said, adding that if the trends identified in Indicators 2004 continue undeterred, three things will happen:
    1. The number of jobs in the U.S. Economy that require science and engineering training will grow.
    2. The number of U.S. citizens prepared for those jobs will, at best, be level.
    3. The availability of people from other countries who have science and engineering training will decline, either because of limits to entry imposed by U.S. national security restrictions or because of intense global competition for people with these skills.
  • The Natiional Science Board report found that the number of American eighteen-to-twenty-four-year-olds who receive science degrees has fallen to seventeenth in the world, whereas we ranked third three decades ago.
  • It also stated that of the 2.8 million first university degrees ("bachelor's degrees"; B.A. or A.B, in the U.S.) in science and engineering granted worldwide in 2003, 1.2 million were earned by Asian students in Asian universities; 830,000 were granted in Europe; and 400,000 in the United States.
  • In engineering specifically, universities in Asian countries now produce eight times as many bachelor's degrees as the United States.
  • In addition, it is stated that the proportional emphasis on science and engineering is greater in other natiions.
  • Science and engineering degrees now represent 60 percent of all bachelor's degrees earned in China, 33 percent in South Korea, and 41 percent in Taiwan.
  • By contrast, the percentage of those taking a bachelor's degree in science and engineering in the United States remains at roughly 31 percent.
  • Factoring out science degrees, the number of Americans who graduate with just engineering degrees is five percent, as compared to 25 percent in Russia and 46 percent in China, according to a 2004 report by Trilogy Publications, which represents the national U.S. Engineering professional association.
  • America's science and engineering labor force grew at a rate well above that of America's production of science and engineering degrees, because a large number of foreign-born science and engineering graduates migrated to the United States.
  • Now, the simultaneous flattening and wiring of the world have made it much easier for foreigners to innovate without having to emigrate.
  • They can now do world-class work for world-class companies at very decent wages without ever having to leave their home countries.
  • The brain gain for the U.S. Started to go to brain drain around the year 2000 because they now have the facilities and the internet to connect to.
—Compiled from The World Is Flat:
A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century;
by Thomas L. Friedman; Farrar, Straus and Giroiux;
New York; 2005; source pages 225-250.

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