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United States Science

State of US Science Report Shows Disturbing Trends 574

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the from-a-head-start-to-no-child-left-behind-in-the-blink-of-an-eye dept.
coondoggie writes to mention that the National Science Board is concerned about certain indicators in the science and engineering fields for the United States. "For example, US schools continue to lag behind internationally in science and math education. On the other hand, the US is the largest, single, R&D-performing nation in the world pumping some $340 billion into future-related technologies. The US also leads the world in patent development."
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State of US Science Report Shows Disturbing Trends

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  • Sooo... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by calebt3 (1098475)
    ...we spending the most money, on the dumbest researchers?
    • Patenting? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) on Friday January 18, 2008 @01:21PM (#22095792) Homepage Journal
      "Patenting the obvious, since 1994" :-)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by creimer (824291)
      Nope. We're spending the most money on smart researchers hired (and sometimes better educated) from outside of the United States. It's just not economical to grow smart talent at home.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by clampolo (1159617)
        This is bullshit. If foreigners are so smart, why do they have to come to the US for jobs?
        Why are people surprised noone wants to go into engineering in the US: stagnant wages, offshoring, age discrimination, long hours. It's a shitty way to waste $100k on an education.
        • Re:Sooo... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by MightyMartian (840721) on Friday January 18, 2008 @01:39PM (#22096164) Journal
          They come because there's a market here, and one that isn't being filled domestically. This is pretty simple economics.
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by clampolo (1159617)
            That's kind of my point. The market here is being filled domestically because it's a crappy career choice. When people were being paid well and treated well in the late 90's people were flocking to engineering. Now there are less and less engineering majors because people know they are much better off with a medical degree, law degree, or going into finance.
        • by davidsyes (765062) * on Friday January 18, 2008 @01:47PM (#22096356) Homepage Journal
          Study the competition (or, in more base terms, know your enemy...).

          Hell, the US is GOOD at out-sourcing, even outsourcing education. Sure, foreign students from abroad attend some of the ivy league (lower-casing intentional) schools here, but many attend in Europe, too. Some even attend here, then SPEND their time in Europe after having had enough of the US, but are still in school and have too many friends here.

          Plus, there are cultural reasons (corruption, leadership by cronies and elders who might not see the logic in empowering their local populations), or other reasons in regions where there's just not enough money and will to outright build new, world-class, competitive, lasting and door-knocking throngs of students. So, they ship them out or allow them to be recruited by US colleges needing cash infusion.

          Do you KNOW how many Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and Indian students HERE in the US come from families that put them up in $1,000/month apartments, send them to renowned as well as dubious schools or "academies" that cost $80,000 to $200,000 for maybe 3 or 4 years? LOTS. It's a churning industry, and they keep getting fuller and fuller. Recruiting or otherwise attracting well-off kids whose parents want the brightest futures for their kids. Not saying ALL Asian families are that way, though.
        • Re:Sooo... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by CodeBuster (516420) on Friday January 18, 2008 @01:47PM (#22096358)

          If foreigners are so smart, why do they have to come to the US for jobs?
          They come here precisely because they are smart. As bad as the US government is in terms of taxation and economic policy it is still easier for a smart individual to get ahead in the United States than it is in many other parts of the world. Thus, in light of the higher pay, lower taxes, better recognition for intellectual accomplishments (i.e. bonus, raises, and promotions) it is easy to see why many smart people, particularly in medical research for example, choose to work in the United States, if possible, rather than remain in their native country where they will take a bath in taxes and generally receive less financial reward for their work. Does this answer your question?

          Why are people surprised noone wants to go into engineering in the US: stagnant wages, offshoring, age discrimination, long hours.
          Perhaps, but even so it is still better than many of the alternatives. I often hear the lament, particularly from new college graduates, that offshoring is killing their job opportunities or that their wages are stagnant and any number of other gripes with the possible exception of age discrimination. Personally, I think that these perceptions have more to do with the so called "praise generation" which was raised by their parents with statements like "you're special", "award for participation", and "it's not important what other people think, but only how you feel about yourself". Is it any wonder that we have raised a generation of young adults who have a highly inflated opinion of themselves with insatiable egos who think that the world is their oyster and should dance to their tune? Many of these praise generation youths are getting their first taste of the real world now and they are shocked with the realities of not making 100k right out of college, not having the luxury car and the fancy house, and generally not being the all important center of attention. All I can say is, "welcome to the first day of the rest of your life".
          • Re:Sooo... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by drooling-dog (189103) on Friday January 18, 2008 @02:36PM (#22097464)

            They come here precisely because they are smart. As bad as the US government is in terms of taxation and economic policy it is still easier for a smart individual to get ahead in the United States than it is in many other parts of the world.
            Taxation and economic policy is only a small part of it. A bigger part is that the U.S. still has the best research infrastructure in the world, and if you want to do state-of-the-art science, it is still where it's at. If you're in a scientific career, that's far more important to you than how much you'll pay in taxes.

            Flip through any professional scientific or engineering journal, and look at the names of the authors of the papers. You may see U.S. institutional affiliations, but the names will be from all over: Europe, China, India, etc. The U.S. benefits greatly from this influx of talent and brainpower, so let's not keep screwing it up by needlessly harrassing foreign scientists at the border just because we can. The de facto War on Science and Reason being waged by certain political elements in this country doesn't help much, either.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by damburger (981828)

              Taxation and economic policy is only a small part of it. A bigger part is that the U.S. still has the best research infrastructure in the world, and if you want to do state-of-the-art science, it is still where it's at. If you're in a scientific career, that's far more important to you than how much you'll pay in taxes.

              Three words for you:

              Large.

              Hadron.

              Collider.

              Europe's latest and greatest particle accelerator will produce collisions with 14 times as much energy as the largest one in the US when it c

          • Re:Sooo... (Score:5, Informative)

            by LaskoVortex (1153471) on Friday January 18, 2008 @02:46PM (#22097654)

            Perhaps, but even so it is still better than many of the alternatives. I often hear the lament, particularly from new college graduates, that offshoring is killing their job opportunities or that their wages are stagnant and any number of other gripes with the possible exception of age discrimination.

            Everyone is talking about college graduates. If these belly-achers stopped and read the actual article, they would find their complaining was ill-founded except for the natural bitterness that comes with old age. None of the key indicators suggested that the abilities of college graduates have declined. The indicators suggest that the numbers of such graduates are not keeping pace with the rest of the world.

            This knee-jerk bashing of new college graduates and the irresponsible moderators who give these idiots a voice need to be stopped. Such attitudes and bias are likely part of the force that drives the US's decline in science. Get over your old age! I have.

          • Re:Sooo... (Score:4, Informative)

            by marshac (580242) on Friday January 18, 2008 @04:17PM (#22099358) Homepage
            "it is still easier for a smart individual to get ahead in the United States than it is in many other parts of the world. "

            Hardly. This is what's known as "economic freedom". The US is currently ranked #5, right behind Hong Kong, Singapore, Ireland, and Australia. Now, number five in the world isn't bad, but it's clearly not number one either.
    • Re:Sooo... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by cozziewozzie (344246) on Friday January 18, 2008 @01:24PM (#22095856)

      ...we spending the most money, on the dumbest researchers?


      Hardly, as many of the world's brightest researchers end up in the US.

      A more interesting question is how much all that patent business is increasing the costs of R&D in the US and the West in general. Because one of the unlucky consequences of patents is that once a wheel is patented, it has to be reinvented 20 times, carefully treading around the patent each time.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Znork (31774)
      Well, at least the US has the worlds most expensive research. Which may, perhaps, be due to the costs of having such a high number of patents.

      Nothing drives costs like lawyers.
    • Re:Sooo... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by I_Love_Pocky! (751171) on Friday January 18, 2008 @02:50PM (#22097756)
      I hardly think it is fair to look at the average student's comprehension of math and science and think it has any relationship to the best and brightest among us. There are plenty of home grown Americans in the top tiers of research and development, and they are just as smart as their foreign grown counterparts. I believe that the real trouble with the decline in general knowledge of math and science, is that it has led a large segment of society to lose sight of the value of research. There is a growing trend towards rejecting the recommendations of our top researchers, and instead trusting our gut feelings on things. This is a disturbing trend indeed, as placing our faith in feelings over facts is wrongheaded and dangerous. It doesn't matter how good we are at research if the majority of people choose to ignore the research.
  • by Besna (1175279) * on Friday January 18, 2008 @01:19PM (#22095728)
    When did we all conspire to repeat the meme that the engineering job market sucks? It goes beyond the usual issue--outsourcing(linked almost every time to India). There's the annoyance with people who haven't been putting together and programming computers since age 5. There's the frightening realization in the programming world that anyone can learn it anywhere. You don't grow your industry by discouraging newcomers. People who work with computers will expand the market. As we get more people into atheism and computing, the demand for those same people grows. Check out monster.com's tech board. Pessimists abounds there.
    • by Comboman (895500) on Friday January 18, 2008 @02:19PM (#22097072)
      As we get more people into atheism and computing, the demand for those same people grows.

      There's a demand for atheists? I knew there had to be jobs for philosophy majors somewhere.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Omestes (471991)
        More than half the people in my Philosophy department were Catholics getting the Phi degree because it looks good when doing Seminary. There was a nice little war between us "free thinkers", and them.

        The point is Philosophy != Atheism.
  • if I buy a copy of cold fusion and use it to set up a web based admin, production, scheduling system. Can someone come along and say the process we created is patented and that I can't use it?
  • Patent Devlopment? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Serenissima (1210562) on Friday January 18, 2008 @01:20PM (#22095762)
    Are we saying that Patent Trolling is the same thing as Developing?
    • by aliquis (678370)
      Exactly, just because the same shit aren't accepted in other countries doesn't make the US the most developing and innovating nation. Thought you probably are anyway.

      To bad with the schools thought, I got the impression somewhere that us schools didn't learned as much "basics" but more advanced stuff because it seemed more beneficial or something? But I guess math and science should be among those more advanced things so it doesn't make that much sense. I can agree that history and religion and such crap ar
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Alain Williams (2972)
      That is an indication that the USA leads the world in the number of lawyers in employment, doesn't say much about the number of scientists.
    • by moosesocks (264553) on Friday January 18, 2008 @02:10PM (#22096872) Homepage
      Perhaps.

      Over the past few decades, most US firms have found it beneficial to decouple development from manufacturing. Consequently, intellectual property rights must be respected and protected, in order to prevent the manufacturing firms from raping the R&D guys.

      In the current US economy, we do have a legitimate need for a good patent system given these circumstances. It also does have various other beneficial effects, as it makes it considerably easier for small/new companies to develop and market products that would otherwise require considerable infrastructure to manufacture.

      Whether or not the current patent system is good or not is another debate entirely, although I'm personally of the opinion that it needs to be seriously reformed to better balance the needs of the patent holders with consumers, cut down on the number of junk patents being filed, prevent exorbitant licensing fees, etc....
  • by jgarra23 (1109651) on Friday January 18, 2008 @01:21PM (#22095780)
    This is a natural cycle of markets. (or greed, or laziness or whatever...) now the US is resting on their laurels, reaping the benefits of engineers past and eventually will pay dearly economically for this culture's unwillingness to churn out better engineers.... and 70 years from now you'll probably see another surge of ingenuity and wonder in western-hemisphere technology.
  • scientific elites (Score:2, Informative)

    by flynt (248848)
    This article http://www.phds.org/reading/elites.html [phds.org] always seemed good to me. It's been 15 years since it has been written now.

  • by Philotechnia (1131943) on Friday January 18, 2008 @01:22PM (#22095800)
    ...a creationist museum in Texas is closing

    Mod US science +1!
    • by hazem (472289)
      Unfortunately, the bottom of the summary points out the larger creationist museum in Kentucky is thriving.

      Mod US science -2
  • Hypocrisy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Raul654 (453029) on Friday January 18, 2008 @01:26PM (#22095890) Homepage
    It seems to me to be the height of hypocrisy that business leaders (Gates and company) complain about a lack of scientifically/technologically trained Americans, and thus we need to increase H1-B visas. These same leaders then turn around and support republican candidates who don't believe in evolution and want to water down the science curriculum by introducing Intelligent Design.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by mustpax (983305)
      For some reason I don't think corporations support republicans out of love for Intelligent Design. Let's see, not having to worry about antitrust cases probably ranks high on that list. (The current DoJ sure is tough on Microsoft.)
    • Re:Hypocrisy (Score:4, Insightful)

      by rucs_hack (784150) on Friday January 18, 2008 @01:46PM (#22096322)
      It seems to me to be the height of hypocrisy that business leaders (Gates and company) complain about a lack of scientifically/technologically trained Americans, and thus we need to increase H1-B visas. These same leaders then turn around and support republican candidates who don't believe in evolution and want to water down the science curriculum by introducing Intelligent Design.

      True, but those very same republicans are big business friendly, and few systems that fail are able to detect or admit that failure themselves, it usually takes an outside observer to say something first, which they either deny and fail, or accept and change.

      As for not believing in evolution, well thats a political stance designed to keep them in with the religious bods who provide a lot of funding. I seriously doubt an Atheist would get selected for high office. For a country where religion and state are seperate, there sure is a lot of religious posturing among your leaders.
  • by Lurker2288 (995635) on Friday January 18, 2008 @01:27PM (#22095928)
    Wait, you mean in a nation where whole chunks of the population teach their kids that the world was created by an invisible sky daddy in six days isn't leading the pack in science education? We'd better pray harder!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Kenrod (188428)
      The greatest challenge in education is the disintegration of two-parent families and strong communities. This is particularly pronounced in minority communities. The very occasional teaching of ID in public classrooms is probably not even a factor. But I guess confronting real problems isn't as much fun as kicking religious people, is it?
      • by gardyloo (512791) on Friday January 18, 2008 @01:46PM (#22096344)

        The very occasional teaching of ID in public classrooms is probably not even a factor.
        But I guess confronting real problems isn't as much fun as kicking religious people, is it?
        I doubt anyone would really argue that support from home is not a strong factor in a child's educational success. However, why not confront all the problems we can, including the mindset that comes along for the ride with ID?
      • by HungSoLow (809760) on Friday January 18, 2008 @01:49PM (#22096394)
        I agree that the parent / community plays an integral role in intellectual development. That being said, if a community does not place great importance on truth and consistently uses baseless arguments to critique well-founded theories in science (evolution, big bang, etc..) then why would any child in this environment that develops into an adult want a career in science?

        You're right, parents and strong communities are critical - but it's distortion of truth by said people that is the REAL problem.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Tsiangkun (746511)
        The religious have been used as a pawn for the party of big business. Maybe if they voted in their communities best interests, and left religion in thier chruch and private homes, we wouldn't need both parents working 6 days a week.
      • by upside (574799)
        I won't disagree, but consider that there are countries topping international comparisons that also have 40-50% divorce rates. I guess this has to do with more government support for single parents, meaning they don't have to work two jobs to maintain a decent standard of living.
      • by UberOogie (464002)
        The greatest challenge in education is the disintegration of two-parent families and strong communities.

        [Citation needed]

        This is particularly pronounced in minority communities. The very occasional teaching of ID in public classrooms is probably not even a factor. But I guess confronting real problems isn't as much fun as kicking religious people, is it?

        You mean the way the religious people confront the real problems such as who gets to marry who, eroding the separation of Church and state, and trying enfor

      • by tknn (675865) on Friday January 18, 2008 @02:21PM (#22097140) Homepage
        That is why countries like Finland, which has a higher divorce rate than the US, top the rankings? Stop pushing your "morality" based agenda without facts to back it up.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 18, 2008 @02:39PM (#22097532)
        I don't know what America you grew up in, but in my part of America, I knew plenty of kids who were raised in single parent households and did just fine. "Strong communities" and "two-parent families" are and have always been myths perpetrated by religious and social organizations as tools to increase their power.

        Religious organizations benefit when everybody is dropping by on their pre-determined day and putting money in the collection plate. Their monetary power increases. Their social power increases too because maybe, just maybe some of those who attend will listen and follow the precepts and guidelines of that religion and support policies and causes that the church wants. One of the tools that these religious organizations use is the spiritual myth of marriage and the talking point that only sanctioned (who performs the weddings?) and married people are socially, spiritually, and monetarily qualified to have children. Hence the myth that two-parent households are better.

        Social organizations benefit from strong communities as well, but not in the same way as religious organizations. Social organizations, led by people who have a personal agenda, want members. Members are votes to them, and dues are more money in the coffers to fight for what the head of the organization wants. The more people they have listening to them, the more money they have coming in, and the more votes they can drum up to support their leader's personal agenda. These organization benefit from a strong, tightly knit community who all belong one or several of these organizations. It makes their power grab easier to pull off. Hence the myth that strong communities are better.

        Both of these systems are wide open to manipulation and are tools to control you. Education is to free you. These organizations are the opposite of that freedom. Their impact on education is the opposite of what you claim - they stifle personal freedom and destroy the environment of learning and education that they claim to promote.

        The real problems are lack of parental involvement in education and a culture controlled by religious and social organizations. Parental involvement is important, but the elimination of the influence of social organizations and mass media is just as important. Systems that cannot be thrown off as of yet because of the lack of intelligence and the complete indoctrination of these organizations values and norms into children as a result of public education.
    • sky daddy... that's awesome. Who's your sky daddy!
    • by operagost (62405)
      Pray harder that unfunny trolls are banned from teh intarweb?
    • Oh come on, is Pastafarianism any better......actually it is, never mind.
  • No wonder.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by necro2607 (771790) on Friday January 18, 2008 @01:29PM (#22095958)
    This is going to sound really cynical, but I feel inclined to say: No wonder current tech is not forward-thinking and is only innovating at a "comfortable" pace. You know, the kind of pace that enables companies to really milk as much as they can out of products without having to do very much R&D to improve the tech.

    This is why we are still using countless seperate devices for our various everyday communication/information needs that can't communicate with each other, and why the concept of "integration" of the technological extensions of ourselves is largely overlooked. Oh, it's also why we pay $50+mo for, frankly, the most basic of cell phone and internet connectivity, for example. Companies that have the funds to do amazing R&D and amazing advances in the "human" aspects of technology aren't bothering, because they're rich as hell one way or another - they can crawl along at a comfortable pace with no problem (especially because "everyone else is doing it too").

    Yeah, a bit of a tangent there, but I've been thinking about this stuff a lot lately. You know, we 100% have the means for technology to be so much more, but it's as though no one cares.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jbeaupre (752124)
      You're always welcome to start your own company to provide the devices and services you crave. With blackjack and hookers if you want.
  • today, the usa is where you go when you want to turn your ideas into personal financial rewards. however, the usa can't rely upon this fact for long, as china will become the top dog soon in the $$$ department. and so the usa must indeed focus on nurturing it's own brainpower ...and watch them move to shanghai
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by peragrin (659227)
      Actually look to europe first for the next big technology group. China is still only copying ideas.

      The first big sign of the downfall of the USA is when OPEC switches Oil from Dollars to Euros to make more money.
    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by eli pabst (948845)
      I'm not sure how true that's going to be. How much innovation is coming out of China? Surprisingly little considering its population size. I think having relaxed IP laws have stifled that even further...why would you want to move to China with your new cool technology, if a competitor can simply copy it.
  • Is this truly a good thing. Are US patents even valid outside the US (ie international treaties that govern patents)? There seems to be a big difference between using R&D to come up with commercially-viable products and generating patents of ideas that may or may not be viable.
  • by nerdonamotorcycle (710980) on Friday January 18, 2008 @01:30PM (#22095988)
    This is what happens when a culture has a profound anti-intellectual streak, and when those who epitomize dogma and religious faith start winning out in the court of public opinion over those who believe in science and empiricism.

    Consider:

    • creationism vs. evolution
    • abstinence-only sex education
    • the war on drugs, which emphasizes prohibition (based mostly on dogma) over harm reduction (based on empiricism--"what works")
    • by bcattwoo (737354) on Friday January 18, 2008 @02:03PM (#22096706)

      This is what happens when a culture has a profound anti-intellectual streak, and when those who epitomize dogma and religious faith start winning out in the court of public opinion over those who believe in science and empiricism.
      If anything the U.S. has gotten more and more secular as science and math education and achievement have declined. The religious have gotten more outspoken but really religion's influence over people's lives has gotten less and less. The current resurgence of religious sway probably has not helped, but the U.S. has been backsliding for a while now. I think that there are other cultural/socioeconomic factors at work here.
    • by Lumpy (12016) on Friday January 18, 2008 @02:04PM (#22096736) Homepage
      Also consider....

      It's uncool to be smart.
      Black kids getting good grades are assaulted and told they are "acting white"
      Schools cut science programs but fund additional athletic programs.
      Society rewards and promotes the stupid jock and vilifies and puts down the smart geek.
      Media further promotes the above stereotypes and problems.

      THERE's the start of your problem. Kids are not smart because you are a dork for being smart. fix that and you fix almost everything else.

      BTW: this problem started in the 60's.
      • by nerdonamotorcycle (710980) on Friday January 18, 2008 @02:08PM (#22096818)
        Yup, those are all good examples of the sort of anti-intellectualism I'm talking about. It goes way back, too. America's cultural heroes, at least as far as practical invention goes, are people like Henry Ford and Thomas Edison who lacked formal education and who succeeded by doing things contrary to the conventional and accepted wisdom of people who had formal education.
        • by Omestes (471991) <omestes@gmail.DEBIANcom minus distro> on Friday January 18, 2008 @03:11PM (#22098214) Homepage Journal
          I know I'm going to get bashed for this.

          I've always wondered why our (American) heroes are steroidal, semi-moronic, sports people, or idiotic pretty Hollywood people. I was reading a book on 20th century French philosophy, and Foucault was treated like a rockstar, and Sartre had a parade for his funeral. Sure, these aren't scientific (per se) figures, but they are intellectuals. Ask the average American to identify ONE thinker?

          Looking at our universities, 80% of the people are entering them as a trade school, getting their fast-track MBA or such, and completely ignoring the fields irrelevant to making money (science, the humanities, history). They want money, they want a career, curiosity come second to that. Greed over knowledge. They want application, and not the ability to think of new things, a ready made body of knowledge is safe, all you need to do is follow the steps.

          The problem, in part, is greed. The odds of you getting rich as a public scientist (the most valuable and productive, in my eyes) is pretty slim.

          We want the status quo and wealth, not innovation. Hell science doesn't even fall into the other American value, ambition. Sure you can be determined to find x, but really, you might not. It's up to nature to decide, not you. Science is too humble for our tastes. As we can see by the rise of scientism preachers (Dawkins and co.), science needs to be sexier.

          We also are a country that venerates morons. Not to enter the realm of flamebait, but look what got Bush elected. Not his wit, or astute knowledge of foreign affairs, but his "folksy" ways of expression.
    • by sydbarrett74 (74307) <sydbarrett74.gmail@com> on Friday January 18, 2008 @02:16PM (#22097008)
      Anti-intellectualism has been an attribute of American culture since colonial days. In Democracy In America, Alexis de Tocqueville states that whilst Europeans value erudition, Americans value wit and cleverness. Here is an exact quotation:

      Taken as a whole, literature in democratic ages can never present, as it does in the periods of aristocracy, an aspect of order, regularity, science, and art; its form, on the contrary, will ordinarily be slighted, sometimes despised. Style will frequently be fantastic, incorrect, over- burdened, and loose, almost always vehement and bold. Authors will aim at rapidity of execution more than at perfection of detail. Small productions will be more common than bulky books; there will be more wit than erudition, more imagination than profundity; and literary performances will bear marks of an untutored and rude vigor of thought, frequently of great variety and singular fecundity. The object of authors will be to astonish rather than to please, and to stir the passions more than to charm the taste.
      Keep in mind that the first edition was published in 1835, so this phenomenon is hardly new.
  • "It's so hard!" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ProteusQ (665382) <dontbotherNO@SPAMnowhere.com> on Friday January 18, 2008 @01:30PM (#22095990) Journal
    That's what I hear from my freshman-sophomore math majors nearly every day. Sorry to pass the buck, but I suspect that HS math is either dumbed down or grade inflation prevents the kids and their parents and their parents' lawyers from complaining too much. So, they get A's in a "hard" subject, get lots of kudos because this must indicate that they're smart, and so some decide (quite logically) to choose math as a major in college.

    Then if you get a prof who expects excellent performance for an A, average for a C, and F if you never did work enough to catch on, and then their world turns absolutely upside-down.

    Should students study harder? Absolutely. And _13 years_ of public education ought to provide adequate training in how to study. If not, we'll get more of these "disturbing" trends.
    • Re:"It's so hard!" (Score:5, Interesting)

      by futuresheep (531366) on Friday January 18, 2008 @01:43PM (#22096260) Journal
      It is dumbed down. I highly recommend that everyone takes a hard look at the math curriculum in your areas schools. Too many now are using programs like TERC and Everyday Mathematics that stress self discovery, group work, calculator usage, and a spiraling learning path instead of mastering a topic and moving forward. They deemphasize standard algorithms, multiplication table memorization, and long division. Thank god there are states like Texas and California that have recently found these programs to be deficient, and are no longer using them in their schools.

      Links to information and curriculum reviews:

      http://www.wheresthemath.com/ [wheresthemath.com]
      http://www.wheresthemath.com/blog/curriculum-reviews/ [wheresthemath.com]
      http://www.nychold.com/ [nychold.com]
      http://www.weaponsofmathdestruction.com/ [weaponsofm...uction.com]
      http://128.208.34.90/ramgen/archive/weekday/conv20070313.rm [128.208.34.90]

      • Texas found this to be the case 20 years ago. I attended the Plano Independent School District, and mastered algebra in the 4th grade (with the exception of matrix multiplication, which to this day I still do not remember.)
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by timholman (71886)

        It is dumbed down. I highly recommend that everyone takes a hard look at the math curriculum in your areas schools. Too many now are using programs like TERC and Everyday Mathematics that stress self discovery, group work, calculator usage, and a spiraling learning path instead of mastering a topic and moving forward. They deemphasize standard algorithms, multiplication table memorization, and long division. Thank god there are states like Texas and California that have recently found these programs to be d

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      The problem in the US is that we stopped teaching how to study/learn, and only teach how to memorize for some SAT and then forget...or rather, that's the emphasis. You can still learn, but you have to want to learn... and since peer pressure in HS says that knowing things is "dumb"(!), you can guess the outcome. Yay!
    • That's what I hear from my freshman-sophomore math majors nearly every day.

      [old man voice]Back in MAH day, we knuckled down! We didn't take anything for granted, we worked our asses off!

      Eh. I think every generation laments the work ethic of the next generation, and don't remember that their generation was just as whiny.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Black Art (3335)
      It is worse than that. You are punished for taking hard courses.

      If you expect to get into a good college, you have to have a pristine GPA. In order to get that, you have to cut back on courses that are hard. If you take hard course you will learn more, but you may not score as well. So doing hard things loses out.

      I had a crappy GPA in high school. I took the hardest courses I could find. I learned a lot, but it made getting into a good college next to impossible.

      The system is rigged against those who
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Omestes (471991)
        Actually never underestimate dropping out, getting a GED, and hitting up 2 years of community college instead. I actually found myself giving this advice to kids lately. Smart kids are bored by our schools, therefore we medicate them, right now the only solution is to escape, and go find your own level.

        A GED wipes your high school GPA from the books. Sure you might not be able to hit Harvard or MIT, but most schools really don't care. And really our community colleges are a godsend, they don't deserve t
  • by Badgam (1219056) on Friday January 18, 2008 @01:31PM (#22096012)
    At least it looks like there is some progress being made in revitalizing government support for basic research, although we will still have to wait to see if the damages done to scientific research in key fields can be repaired by the next Administration. Hopefully, people are starting to realize that the US doesn't exist in a magical opportunity bubble and unless we remain competitive at all levels of innovation, from basic research to patenting to bringing those developments to market, we are not going to hold on to our competitive edge. America is not immune to the global economy..it's that simple: the United States, like every other economically developed nation has to preserve its comparative advantage by ensuring that it retains a technological lead over its competitors. If we lose that lead, we slide in to economic stagnation and eventually outright decline. At the very least, maybe we'll get some leaders who actually listen to their experts.
  • by buddyglass (925859) on Friday January 18, 2008 @01:38PM (#22096150)
    U.S. students don't underperform their international peers because the school system sucks (although, it does suck). They underperform for two reasons. One is demographics. The U.S. has a much larger lower class than do most other nations to which it is compared. Kids who grow up in poverty with terrible home situations will, surprise surprise, not shine when it comes to academic performance. The second reasons is cultural. If you look at kids not from this underclass, a disproportionate number lack the desire to acquire math/science skills, or, really, the desire to excel academically in any field. One possible contributor to this is that students in the U.S. needn't pass an exit exam in order to graduate high school and enter college. The other is general cultural malaise, but it's harder to define that in any exact sense. There is a "culture of achievement" present in some countries (Japan and Germany come to mind) that is simply lacking in the United States.
    • by Silicon_Knight (66140) on Friday January 18, 2008 @01:48PM (#22096388)
      As an immigrant kid that went to high school here, I'll define that "culture malaise" for you. Academics just isn't given as high a recognition in American schools. The HS football game, the HS football team, the cheerleaders get paraded, and it's cool to be a jock. When's the last time you see the Math team, the Chess team, or the Academic Decathlon team get that sort of "hero's welcome"?
  • by pubjames (468013) on Friday January 18, 2008 @01:39PM (#22096172)
    I think it is time to stop comparisons like "the US is the largest, single, R&D-performing nation in the world pumping some $340 billion into future-related technologies", because they give a distorted view of reality. The main reason the USA comes out on top so often with this kind of statistic is simply because it is sound a large populous county.

    For example, the USA wins the most gold medals at the Olympics. But does that mean the USA is the best at sports? No. If we look at gold medals per capita, then Australia easily beats the USA. If we add countries together so we have equivalent populations, then we get another picture - Europe would often beat the USA if it entered as a single country, for instance.

    If you looked at R&D per capita, or R&D as a % of GDP, or any other more reasonable metric that just comparing countries of different sizes, I expect you would get a very different picture than the summary suggests.

  • Since we lead the world in R&D research, and Patents..... What would happen if I registered for a patent for "A Method of learning Maths and Sciences", followed shortly thereafter with "A Method for applying maths and sciences in R&D".

    Think I could get some of that R&D Money thru licensing of my patents?
  • by gelfling (6534) on Friday January 18, 2008 @01:41PM (#22096232) Homepage Journal
    Half the graduate students in hard sciences in the US are foreign. They're the ones who shine. I don't mean second generation I mean foreign students on academic visas. If they stay in the US, yaay for us. If not? Oh well, the US is indigenously now a nation of retards.
  • by jav1231 (539129) on Friday January 18, 2008 @01:41PM (#22096236)
    My position has always been cutting funding to education. The problem is we have continually increased spending and gotten less in return. I recall a couple of years back when a high school senior in a tiny West Virginia town blew the national curve. I imagine his school district placed higher priority on learning and less on social engineering curriculums. Teachers need to make more, administrative services at school need to be cut. And these social education programs need to be shit canned. Spending can be cut, moneys prioritized (read, teachers!) and we can finally focus on what matters!

  • I think the declining quality of education in the United States has something to do with the cost of the medical system. Not enough doctors and too much demand from aging baby boomers and the like means that medical professionals are far better paid salary-wise than almost all other professions. In countries with better performing educational systems, health care is cheaper. Someone should do a regression on education performance vs health care expenditures per capita per year of life.
  • by hey! (33014) on Friday January 18, 2008 @01:43PM (#22096272) Homepage Journal
    I'll be devil's advocate here and suggest that the average scores don't mean much.

    Does it matter that somebody with the median score in high school math isn't particularly good at it, if he's working as a salesman or a mechanic?

    Now, I could argue in a liberal arts kind of way that it does matter, because with a better grasp of science these people will be better informed citizens. But from a vocational standpoint, you want to know that if there are N slots for graduates with science skills, the top N science students are very good indeed. And since every job that requires science skills requires strong math skills (but not necessarily vice versa), you want more students to be good at math, but not necessarily every student.

    The trend is towards business giving up on American science, engineering, and know-how in general. So why spend four years after high school gaining skills that aren't wanted? Why spend the money to increase student performance when we can enjoy the use of that money today, and it won't make any difference to their lives except maybe in some kind of woolly headed liberal notion of citizenship? If we were really concerned about the future of our students, it'd be like beating the Soviets in the Cold War, no effort to improbable of success to try, no cost to outrageous to bear.

    It doesn't pay to be better than the rest of the world but get paid more as well. You've got to be a better value. Therefore by in the name of business efficiency, Americans deserve to see their incomes drop until they're on a par with India and China. When the few Americans who, despite economizing on our schools, have attained some level of scientific or engineering skill look like an incredible bargain, the jobs will come back.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by JustNiz (692889)
      >> with a better grasp of science these people will be better informed citizens.

      No, these people are a threat and exactly the type of people the US government are trying to stamp out.
      What most governments are working hard at is to turn the whole of society into sheeplike ill-informed taxpayers that fill their days with harmless trivia (paris hilton, religion, consumerism, etc) as they are the easiest to control.
  • The study appears flawed from the outset. The United States do not employ a single unified educational system. Education is a state-by-state matter (with some federal money thrown in.) lumping together all the schools in every state for a single study is similar to lumping together all of the schools in Asia.
  • "Basic" Reasearch (Score:3, Insightful)

    by omris (1211900) on Friday January 18, 2008 @01:45PM (#22096304)
    what i see as most disturbing not only in the article, but in the responses, is that no one seems to worry about what is referred to as "basic" research anymore. basic research is the research you do to figure out what is happening in a system normally, figuring out how it's supposed to work. this is the first step in ANY major breakthrough, no matter the field.

    but it's the least funded.

    i work in basic research in the medical field. the NIH is currently funding between 9 and 10 PERCENT of the proposals handed to them. hopefully they are picking the cream of the crop. we don't lack the manpower. there are LOTS of capable people to do the work. it's funding. there is VERY little funding for research unless someone stands to make a great deal of money from it. the problem is, most of the important things we need to figure out are not going to make anyone a pile of money. they may, down the line. but it isn't that likely.

    call me a socialist, but the government needs to get the act together and push their funding toward basic research, and let industry pay for R&D.
  • The problem also lies with legal immigration. As someone with experience in and published a thesis on control systems, I find it impossible to get a dream job without having at least a Greencard. The problem is applying for a Greencard will rob me of at least, at least 5K$ if not about 10K$ (all about the right lawyer, you see). After that, comes the waiting game. How long? About 4 years at least! Longer, normally. So you see, after a couple of years, I am thinking! Heck! Screw this. I am going home. After
  • I wonder when Bodies of Distinguished Scientists are going to make the switch from saying "the U.S. is losing its leadership in Science and Technology" to saying "the U.S. has lost its leadership in Science and Technology." Probably well after the point of no return...

    Anyway, if I were a betting man, I'd be inclined to start a pool.

  • The World is Flat talks about how the American advantage is having a broad education that includes history and literature and art. Is it really a surprise to find that half of the country does poorly in Math and Science when students are encouraged to immerse themselves in a diverse landscape of experiences including sports and music?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by DragonWriter (970822)

      The World is Flat talks about how the American advantage is having a broad education that includes history and literature and art. it really a surprise to find that half of the country does poorly in Math and Science when students are encouraged to immerse themselves in a diverse landscape of experiences including sports and music?

      That's all nice speculation, and no doubt (like much of what Friedman writes) backed by an anecdote or two, but there's little empirical evidence that the US deficiencies in one

  • by goldspider (445116) <ardrake79@@@gmail...com> on Friday January 18, 2008 @02:45PM (#22097628) Homepage
    ...not just science and math.

    First of all, to the people who blame this trend on I.D., give it a rest. Our education system has far greater problems to confront, such as:

    1. Parents - more an dmore parents don't take an active role in their kids' education, and blame the schools for their kids' failure.

    2. Basic literacy - more and more kids cannot even read at grade-level. And we expect them to understand concepts like evolution??

    3. Critical thinking - thanks ot NCLB, kids are taught to take a test, not think for themselves.

    4. Qualified/dedicated teachers - thanks to unions, teachers have little motivation to actually give a shit about whether or not their students are actually learning anything.

    5. No Child Left Behind - the great unfunded mandate that promotes the fantasy that there is no such thing as a dumb, unmotivated kid. One-size-fits-all education only harms good students, and it sure as hell doesn't make the bad ones any better.
  • by thesolo (131008) * <slap@fighttheriaa.org> on Friday January 18, 2008 @05:32PM (#22100858) Homepage
    However, I assure you I am not.

    I honestly believe that the US would not be lagging so far behind in sciences if we finished converting fully to the metric system.

    An acquaintance of mine is taking his first college-level physics class, and the professor stated on the first day that since this was an exact science, there would be no use of US customary measure, only SI units. More than half of the class was simply unaware of what these non-customary units were, and as a result, they spent a week's worth of courses going over grams, litres, metres/kilometres, etc., all the while the students bemoaned having to learn a "foreign" unit of measure. I can even recall something similar happening in my high school physics classes. What a waste!

    If we're going to teach our kids to be proficient in math & science, the least we can do is give them a Base-10 system of measure with no fractions and simple conversions.

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