All I can do is shake my head in the direction education has taken in the United States. I've written about this topic in the past, a little here and on another blog of mine. In one of those blog posts, I wrote the following.
American society as a whole seems to have less value for education, especially in the sciences and math, than when I was growing up. Maybe I’m more sensitive to these numbers since I am a scientist at heart…but isn’t anyone else disturbed by this trend? While I feel there should have been something done to help reverse this downward spiral sooner, I’m glad at least that it is finally getting some some well deserved attention by the Bush administration.
College students in the United States are not showing up in those university programs that are focused on physical science, computer science, math, and engineering. There are a number of politicians, parents, and students that will blame the public school education system for the current state of education in the United States. I have some serious doubts whether fingers should really be pointed in the direction of the teachers or even school system. I think in many ways, those fingers should be pointed right back to the parents and their children. Perhaps life in America is so good that by the time the student becomes a young adult, life hasn't prepared them to face the challenges and disappointments they need to do well in the sciences.
For whatever reason that students in the United States are not showing in the sciences and a recent eWeek article, "U.S. Developers, Students Face Ever-Increasing Global Competition", is just one more nail in the coffin.
According to the results of a recent Association for Computing Machinery contest, only one U.S. team of student programmers ranked among the top five in the world.
The results of the 2007 ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest bear out the notion that software development is a worldwide phenomenon and that global competition is fierce. The only U.S. university to finish in the top 10 was the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which placed fourth. The top five winners were Warsaw University (Poland); Tsinghua University (China); St. Petersburg University of IT, Mechanics and Optics (Russia); MIT (United States); and Novosibirsk State University (Russia).
I've been hammered in the past on my criticism that college students have gone soft when it comes to pursuing math and science. It comes to no surprise to me that most of that criticism are from readers who bypassed formal education so that they could get on with the "good life" much sooner then their parents ever did. Their point is why get any type of college degree when you already are making good money as a programmer or IT specialist? In some ways they make a good argument and I hope for their sake they are right.
However, what if I'm correct that we as Americans should be disturbed with the low turn out of student in the math and science courses? I then have some doubts that the United States will really be economically competitive in tomorrow's global market. I hope that the students just now entering their teen years will see the mistakes their older siblings and even parents have made by not seeking a college education in a more challenging field than political science or business.
I also hope that my 3 1/2 year old son has less of that American good life than the rest of the neighborhood kids, so he too can be ready for the challenges that the United States is likely to face in a more educated world. In other words that boy will have a summer job in 16 years so he knows what hard work really is. I want him to work so hard in high school that by the time he is in college and taking differential calculus it will all seem like a summer vacation to him.