The View From 1776
Saturday, February 19, 2005
Teachers’ Unions and Speech Police Are Poisoning Our Future
Emphasis on PC in education leaves the United States unprepared to compete and to defend itself in the 21st century.
One catastrophic result of the swing in education toward anti-American liberal-socialism is dumbing-down students. Teachers’ unions and far too many parents have rejected the idea that hard work and discipline, aimed at mastery of subject matter, should be at the core of public education. They speak glibly about wanting children to “learn to think,” and not to pass tests.
The implicit theory is that one can not think if he has facts at his command, that thinking is a process of undisciplined free-association. From this we get Ebonics as a language, the idea that correct answers to math problems are unimportant, that sentence structure and correct use of words don’t really matter, that social justice and environmental concerns, along with other paganisms, are the proper ground of education. Unearned and undeserved self-esteem become the objective of liberal-socialist educational theory.
Unfortunately, the United States is going to learn the hard way over coming decades that our students’ self-esteem counts for nothing in global competition, commercially or militarily. In the real world, only truth (which includes morality) and competence count.
Hillsdale College’s website carries the lead article from its monthly publication Imprimis, K-12 Establishment is Putting America’s Industrial Leadership at Risk, the text of a recent speech.
In his address at the college, Robert J. Herbold, a member of the President?s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, presented alarming specifics about the issue of American education’s failure to graduate students competent in math and the hard sciences:
“There are some very worrisome trends in the United States with respect to our global share of science, technology, engineering and mathematics expertise. Our share of this expertise is decreasing significantly, both at the bachelor?s and at the Ph.D. levels….among 24-year-olds in the year 2001 who had a B.S. or B.A. degree, only five percent in the U.S. were engineers, compared to 39 percent in China and 19 percent or more in South Korea, Taiwan and Japan. If you look at the actual number of engineers, Figure 1 shows that China is producing three times more than the United States. Figure 2 shows that the U.S. again comes out very low ? even compared to European countries in terms of the percentage of bachelor?s degrees awarded in the fields of engineering and science…...
“Another disturbing trend is in the numbers of individuals receiving a Ph.D. in physical science and engineering. In 1987, 4,700 U.S. citizens received these degrees, compared to 5,600 Asians. In 2001, the U.S. figure had dropped slightly to 4,400 and the number of Asians had risen to 24,900. That is a dramatic shift. We should also note that the percentage of Asians getting science and engineering Ph.D.s at U.S. universities is declining. Indeed, 25 percent fewer Asians got such degrees at U.S. universities in 2001 than in 1996.
“This data relating to physical science and engineering Ph.D.s was assembled by Professor R.E. Smalley, a Nobel Prize-winning scientist from Rice University. His disturbing conclusion: ?By 2010, 90 percent of all Ph.D. physical scientists and engineers in the world will be Asian living in Asia.?
“Why are these figures important? Traditionally, it has been our technical human talent that has driven our industrial success. Basic science, technology, engineering and mathematics knowledge is vitally important in the business world. For perspective, over 50 percent of the CEOs of our Fortune 100 companies come from a technical background. In addition, physical science and engineering capabilities at the Ph.D. level typically drive the kind of highly prized innovations that lead to the emergence of new industries. With expertise in these fields declining in the U.S. while rising in other parts of the world, we risk seeing our industrial leadership weaken.
“One of the main reasons why U.S. production of science and engineering talent in universities is low in comparison to other countries is that U.S. K-12 math and science skill levels are quite weak.”
Some of the same concerns were explored earlier in Education vs Outsourcing