Desire v capacity

We sometimes go about things backwards when it comes to encouraging young people to go into STEM fields. We talk to kids about how such fields are rewarding and useful. We try to create role models to create interest and desire. It is too late.

I speak from experience. I have always enjoyed science and find engineering problems fascinating. But I could not go into those fields because I lacked the higher level math and analytical skills. It wasn't role models I was missing; it was ability. I know that it is possible in theory to take math remedially. I did manage to pass calculus and got to be reasonably adept at statistics, but I never got really comfortable with quants. You have to get good grounding in it when you are young and since each stage builds on the ones before, you cannot just skip ahead. Math is very unforgiving. There are not many correct answers and if you get it wrong it doesn't matter why or what challenges you faced.

We cannot expect to enjoy difficult tasks at first. The first steps often don't seem to come with very much payoff and we rarely undertake a difficult task because we enjoy it but we can enjoy it AFTER we begin to master it. This is a place where we really have to earn any feelings of accomplishment we enjoy. Much of modern American educational culture is almost uniquely unsuited to this kind of incentive system. In fact, our attempts to build self-esteem interfere with this.

We do indeed produce many first class scientists and engineers and our methods of project and team learning are excellent. We just don't produce enough of them because we don't have enough qualified people entering the pipeline. Beyond that, the pipeline leaks. Only about half of those who enter in engineering fields finish. Retention is a problem but it may be the nature of the system. This is a hard course. Not everyone can finish.

The best way to improve output of qualified graduates in the STEM field is to add more rigorous courses way back in elementary school. This will create differentiation in the schools among math students. Some will progress faster than others and must be allowed to advance at a faster rate. There is nothing worse for a smart kid than to repeat the same stuff until the slower ones catch up.

We spend a lot of time and resources to pull the bottom up. It seems to violate fairness to push the top up even farther, but this is mistake. In fact, the fair course is not to treat unequal efforts equally, but rather to make sure that all students can achieve to their potentials.

We really need to get back to the pursuit of excellence. Indeed, we should leave no child behind, but we also need to recognize that in a fair society everyone will end up in a different place, where we hope that they will serve God, country and their fellow man to the extent of their abilities, some more than others but all in their own ways.

Posted by Christine & John at February 25, 2012 8:05 PM
Comments
Comment #337228
We sometimes go about things backwards when it comes to encouraging young people to go into STEM fields. We talk to kids about how such fields are rewarding and useful. We try to create role models to create interest and desire. It is too late.

Actually, I think the lack of good role models is exactly why the pipeline leaks so much. Throughout the media, we are blasted with positive messages about careers outside of science and engineering. Our celebrities are mainly actors, popular musicians & sports players. Our television dramas typically feature lawyers or doctors as protagonists. The stereotypical “good career” for a bright kid coming out of high school either involves finance or going to medical school/law school becoming a doctor/lawyer.

What should be the most disappointing is the number of students talented in math who end up on Wall Street instead of becoming engineers or scientists.

Compound the above with the fact that a huge segment of the American population (mostly social conservatives) categorically rejects the entire scientific method (especially with regards to climatology and evolutionary biology) because it interferes with certain dogmas. Now, you might be able to see a few of the barriers that exist for students in STEM fields.

This isn’t about self-esteem; it’s about a society that doesn’t respect its best and brightest. Unlike other nations, Scientists and engineers are rarely put in charge of our government.

But I could not go into those fields because I lacked the higher level math and analytical skills.

I don’t know about your case, but I usually find that people who struggle in math do so because they fail to fully visualize what math is. Math isn’t just a bunch of symbolic manipulation on a piece of paper or blackboard. Math is a language complete with a vocabulary and grammar. Languages like English and Polish describe the state of a human mind, whereas Math is a language that describes the state of the universe itself. Many people take the flawed approach of simply attempting to memorize algorithms to manipulate symbols without actually understanding the underlying reality that those symbols represent. Two years ago when I was a sophomore, I was stuck in that same rut, but after a few painful mistakes, I learned and was able to appreciate mathematics for the language that it is.

The best way to improve output of qualified graduates in the STEM field is to add more rigorous courses way back in elementary school. This will create differentiation in the schools among math students. Some will progress faster than others and must be allowed to advance at a faster rate. There is nothing worse for a smart kid than to repeat the same stuff until the slower ones catch up.

We spend a lot of time and resources to pull the bottom up. It seems to violate fairness to push the top up even farther, but this is mistake. In fact, the fair course is not to treat unequal efforts equally, but rather to make sure that all students can achieve to their potentials.

I cannot argue with you here. Thanks to my father, I learned all the algorithms for arithmetic by the time I was in 2nd grade. I spent many years watching my peers learn those same algorithms until I finally started algebra in 7th grade. Interestingly enough, 7th grade was also the first year my school divided our math classes by difficulty level.

Posted by: Warped Reality at February 26, 2012 3:27 AM
Comment #337230

Warped

I got these ideas from a trip I am making around the Eastern U.S. I have visited dozens of engineering departments and some high tech firms. What I keep on noticing is how few native-born white Americans are among the top performers or even the faculty. This would not have been the case twenty-five years ago. Obviously the native-born white Americans had role models growing up, but they still did not excel in the numbers we would expect.

On the other hand, the Indian or Chinese guys now dominating the field often seem to be the first generation in college. The fathers were taxi drivers, factory workers sometimes even things like shepherds or garbage collectors. They would have had no role models in engineering.

Re Math - I can think of lots of reasons why I had trouble with math. (In my defense, I am not completely stupid about it. I scored in the 90th percentile on the math part of my GMAT.) But the bottom line is that it would not have helped much to give me a role model or encouragement when I was 18 because the matter had essentially been decided some years ago.

Re your math experience - Your father essentially overcame the poor math training.

My daughter is our family’s math wizard. I attribute much of her skill to the fact that she learned early math in Poland. I observed the difference. They were much poorer than Americans. They had none of the tech tools we shower on even poor districts. What they did was just teach math without excuses. When kids fall behind, they just make them catch up. The class does not wait for the poor performers. They have to get special help outside class.

We should do that. Not all can learn higher math and skill sets differ. We have a big problem in that in the U.S. we throw away excellence in the quest for the chimera of equality.

Re memorizing - It depends on your skill level. You actually DID memorize, you just did it earlier. My math success is more limited than yours, but I was unsuccessful at all until I decide just to push through. It is the same technique I use for language learning, where I am significantly better than average. Things make sense AFTER you do the work. If you try to make sense of it before you do the work, you just never get there.

Posted by: C&J at February 26, 2012 8:00 AM
Comment #337239
What I keep on noticing is how few native-born white Americans are among the top performers or even the faculty. This would not have been the case twenty-five years ago.

I think this is because our society doesn’t put much emphasis on excellence in math & science. Our top scientists are not idolized, instead we have sports & movie stars. When a top preforming native-born white American graduates from High School, there is enormous cultural pressure encouraging him/her to pursue a career in finance, law or medicine instead of in a STEM field.

Nevertheless, I agree with you that today’s STEM graduates are overwhelmingly the children of immigrants from Asia or are immigrants themselves. On several occasions, I’ve found myself the only white face in a crowd of my peers.

On the other hand, the Indian or Chinese guys now dominating the field often seem to be the first generation in college. The fathers were taxi drivers, factory workers sometimes even things like shepherds or garbage collectors. They would have had no role models in engineering.
Even though many of those households do not feature an engineer or scientist (or even a college educated parent), what does matter is that the culture in which these children are raised. There is a glory associated with STEM fields within those households that does not exist in the average American household.

Let me give you an anecdote. Back when I was a senior in High School, I achieved 2210 on the SAT (1520 if you exclude the new writing component). I also had a decent grades in mostly AP courses as well as plenty of extracurricular experience. Whenever I interacted with older adults (mostly my parents’ friends) that year, the topic of conversation inevitably turned to my career path. However, whenever I stated that I planned to major in physics at SUNY Stony Brook, you wouldn’t believe how many eye rolls I got.
Some of my mother’s socially conservative friends even asked me why I wanted to “work against God”. Many of my friends who are also STEM majors have told me similar stories, but not the ones who are Asian-American.

Re memorizing - It depends on your skill level. You actually DID memorize, you just did it earlier. My math success is more limited than yours, but I was unsuccessful at all until I decide just to push through. It is the same technique I use for language learning, where I am significantly better than average. Things make sense AFTER you do the work. If you try to make sense of it before you do the work, you just never get there.

I’m glad that you recognize that mathematics is a language; the refusal to see that hinders many people. From your experience as a polyglot, you probably know the difference between consciously memorizing vocabulary and grammar rules and learning a language on a more fundamental level. I like to play mahjong with a few of my friends. My friends each speak Cantonese and the tiles are labeled exclusively in Chinese; the game mechanics are also explained in terms of Cantonese. Therefore, in order to play mahjong I’ve had to memorize a bunch of Cantonese words. However, I am light years away from learning to speak Cantonese. Likewise, one can consciously memorize a few mathematical rules and implement them, but true understanding comes when the implementation of those rules becomes subconscious habit in stead of conscious memorization.

Posted by: Warped Reality at February 26, 2012 1:38 PM
Comment #337241

Warped wrote; “Compound the above with the fact that a huge segment of the American population (mostly social conservatives) categorically rejects the entire scientific method (especially with regards to climatology and evolutionary biology) because it interferes with certain dogmas.”

Really? I am surprised that you admit that social conservatives are a huge segment of the American population.

And, I am surprised that you know so little about what they believe beyond your immediate circle of friends and family. I suppose some professor told you so and that makes it fact. As a man of science you should study this much more before making such juvenile statements.

Scientific beliefs about man made global warming are at this point “best guesses”. As for evolution, it can not be denied rationally by anyone that living things evolve. Now, as to the first organism and its origin…that remains in question.

Posted by: Royal Flush at February 26, 2012 2:16 PM
Comment #337251
I am surprised that you admit that social conservatives are a huge segment of the American population.

I’m well aware that Bush’s 2004 reelection was mostly due to support from social conservatives. I don’t know that proportion they make of the populace, but it must be tens of millions of people at least. They probably make up at third of the US population, which would actually put their number closer to 100 million.

And, I am surprised that you know so little about what they believe beyond your immediate circle of friends and family. I suppose some professor told you so and that makes it fact. As a man of science you should study this much more before making such juvenile statements.

My mother and most of her friends are socially conservative. I’m not going to claim that my life experiences are gospel; I’m no where near old enough to claim that. However, I’m not going to dismiss what I learn from interacting with people in my life. Perhaps you can tell me where I am wrong ; that way, I’ll learn. Also, I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but I’m not parroting something from a professor. In nearly all of the classes I take, politics is not a topic of discussion.

Scientific beliefs about man made global warming are at this point “best guesses”.
Evidently, you are also one of those people who categorically reject the scientific method. Anthropogenic global warming emerged as a hypothesis in the 19th century when physicists first began to understand the laws of thermodynamics. In the late 20th century, evidence emerged that supported the hypothesis until it became the theory it is today. Theories in science are not “best guesses”. A hypothesis is a “best guess” and the contemporary consensus is that global warming is not just a hypothesis.
As for evolution, it can not be denied rationally by anyone that living things evolve.
Yet it is denied everyday by social conservatives.
Now, as to the first organism and its origin…that remains in question.
People on both sides commonly conflate the theory of evolution with various hypotheses regarding abiogenesis. There is no conclusive evidence in the field of abiogenesis other than the fact that it occurred at least 3 billion years ago and likely occurred in the Earth’s oceans. Whether the process was purely a matter of chemistry & physics or whether a supernatural force was in operation has not been determined. Posted by: Warped Reality at February 26, 2012 4:34 PM
Comment #337252

Warped

There are not many polyglots, although there are are many who think they are or at least say they are.

It is nearly impossible for an average American to maintain even one foreign language, much less two or more.

This is why I get annoyed when people call for us to learn “foreign languages” w/o specifying which.

Non-English natives have an easier decision. They can speak their own language and the world language, i.e. English. I find that lots of people who think they are polyglot are actually functionally like this. They speak their language and English decently, but other languages are at the Tarzan level.

Re STEM - I agree that we don’t value STEM as much, but I also think we just don’t prepare well. We should force everybody to take more math and push it.

We should indeed leave no child behind, but also know that they will have different destinations and arrive at different times.

I really think that one of the biggest challenges to creating excellence in our schools is a misguided attachment to equality. The average student in almost any subject will not be good enough to be anywhere near excellence.

Posted by: C&J at February 26, 2012 4:36 PM
Comment #337253

C&J,

I was always under the impression that you were a bit of polyglot. You have claimed to know Polish, Norwegian, Portuguese as well as classical Greek/Latin. Although you are probably a bit rusty with the languages that you haven’t practiced, you have most likely stored in your subconsciousness the skills you need if you are ever put into the situation of needing to communicate with someone who doesn’t speak English.

In any case, you are someone who has experience learning many new languages. I was trying to relate that experience with my experience learning mathematics.

It is nearly impossible for an average American to maintain even one foreign language, much less two or more.

This is why I get annoyed when people call for us to learn “foreign languages” w/o specifying which.


I learned Spanish in high school. My opportunities to practice using it are rare enough that I’ve lost a lot of my vocabulary, but I think that if I was thrust into a situation that demanded that I know Spanish, I think I could recall/quickly relearn most of what I’ve forgotten.
I really think that one of the biggest challenges to creating excellence in our schools is a misguided attachment to equality. The average student in almost any subject will not be good enough to be anywhere near excellence.

Unfortunately, you are probably right about this. It’s a tough call, especially with regards to elementary math education. Traditionally, all primary school students were simply taught algorithms to solve arithmetic problems with rudimentary algebra coming in secondary school. The overwhelming majority of students weren’t going into fields that required higher math so it was OK. However, the importance of higher mathematics has increased dramatically in the last half century. Educators have tried and failed to find better ways at teaching math, but it is very difficult to serve both the students that end up in college as well as those who ultimately will not. You can scale the classes according to ability, but often those systems are a bit to rigid and fail to take account for the fluidity in students’ abilities. I probably would have benefited from more rigorous math curricula when I was in 4th-7th grade, but I’m not sure about how my peers would have managed.

Posted by: Warped Reality at February 26, 2012 4:59 PM
Comment #337263


When I graduated in 1968, higher math courses were not taught until H.S., geometry 9Th, algebra 10Th, and 11Th, trig 12Th. There were 4 students in my 12Th grade trigonometry class, each of us had to teach the class for one week every 4 weeks.

C&J, warped, both of you have made what I consider valid points. Perhaps we should explore the equity issue and the entire way our teaching system is set up.

I believe we should put more emphasis on real world working situations, basics at first and becoming more intense as the children advance in grade level. Perhaps as much as 20% to 25% of the time devoted to that in H.S. with students concentrating on jobs that they may be qualified for and having the opportunity to decide which ones they may like the most.

In school, and later as a substitute teacher, I’ve observed that the average students tend to ridicule both the above average as well as the below average students.

There is an article today at yahoo, best college curriculum, careers. There is an inequity issue involved in the education subject as well.

Posted by: jlw at February 26, 2012 8:41 PM
Comment #337265

Less stem’s being graduated now than back around 1970. How is that possible, but it is.

This issue comes up frequently, and rightly so. My response is that the education system should be linked,from the 1st grade through college 4. Elem schools goal should be to get kids into high school with top notch grades. HS’s should operate as college prep schools with strong input from college/univ’s as the curricula, etc.

Should be no watered down classes or classes for dummies. Even if a young person does poorly they will still be better served over their lifetime by exposure and sitting through classroom exercises. If they are non-competitive after HS then they can access skills training programs.

Has a HS teacher ever talked about math as a language? Few, IMO.

Also, like the idea of retired professionals,volunteering or paid, part-timers getting a shot at the HS kids for perhaps one day a week but bringing practical math/science issues into the classroom. Take a chip, look at its power requirements one week and follow the signal path the next and maybe end by explaining why the chip is installed in the space station or some such.

Do ‘teacher colleges’ crank out teachers who can relate real world issues to math studies? If they’ve not had work experience in the field of study I’m not sure how well they could relate, other than explaining some diagram in a book.

Posted by: Roy Ellis at February 26, 2012 9:38 PM
Comment #337269

Warped

I always use the past tense in all my foreign languages except the current one. I know my limitations.

jlw

We should indeed use real life examples to the extent possible. I also think we need to work more in projects.

But I worry a lot about this equality crap, however. We try way too hard to bring up the bottom and neglect the brightest. It is a misapplication of resources, IMO.

Posted by: C&J at February 26, 2012 11:04 PM
Comment #337270

“We just don’t produce enough of them because we don’t have enough qualified people entering the pipeline.”

That is just not true. “In fact, three times as many Americans earn degrees in science and engineering each year as can find work in those fields, Science & Engineering Indicators 2008, a publication of the National Science Board, reports. The number of science and engineering Ph.D.s awarded annually in the U.S. rose by nearly 60 percent in the last two decades, from about 19,000 to 30,000, the report says. The number of people under 35 in the U.S. holding doctorates in biomedical sciences, Indicators notes, rose by 59.4 percent — from about 12,000 to about 19,000 — between 1993 and 2001” http://www.miller-mccune.com/science/the-real-science-gap-16191/

The problem is that there are not sufficient job opportunities for those with advanced degrees in science and technology. It is a job gap, not an educational gap. The gravitation of advanced science and technology graduates to finance and other fields is not simply higher pay, it is simply the opportunity for employment. The surge in law school applications over the recent past reflects less a desire for law and more a desire for gainful opportunity after investment in graduate education. Of course, it has produced a glut of new lawyers without employment opportunities.

We should not confuse the abysmal performance of some segments of our educational system with the overall performance of the system. It is bi-modal in many respects.


Posted by: Rich at February 26, 2012 11:05 PM
Comment #337271

Rich

Thanks for the information. I may be looking at this anecdotally, I admit. It is just that in my recent visits to tech firms and engineering departments, I have seen very few native Americans (here I don’t mean Indians, but rather Americans born in the U.S. i.e. native by the real meaning)in those places.

Posted by: C&J at February 26, 2012 11:18 PM
Comment #337272

“But I worry a lot about this equality crap, however. We try way too hard to bring up the bottom and neglect the brightest. It is a misapplication of resources, IMO.”

C&J,

Simply not true. The fastest growing segment of the US educational system since I went to school is advanced placement classes. Compare class arrangements 30 years ago to today in any middle class school in any school district in the nation. The most striking difference would be in the number of special “advanced” educational opportunities offered students and qualifying college level classes offered highly performing students.

Once again, it is important to recognize that there are in reality two separate educational systems in the US: an urban under-performing system and a high performance suburban system.

We may spend a lot of time wringing our hands over how to bring the inner school systems up to standards. However, when it comes to educating the main stream system, the dollars are going to the best and brightest.


Posted by: Rich at February 26, 2012 11:21 PM
Comment #337279

Rich

My kids went to school in Fairfax County, VA, which has excellent public schools. But even there, they are not as rigorous as they should be. We have an excellent science and tech HS, called Thomas Jefferson. It is hard to get into that, which as it should be. We need a few more like that.

The interesting thing about it, however, is that Fairfax spends less money per pupil than does DC, which has abysmal schools on average. In fact, there is little correlation between student achievement and money spent once you get past the very basic level.

Money is important, but I am not worried so much about money spend as in the emphasis given. Besides the emphasis on the bottom (IM0) we also emphasis too much that is not really school.

I know I am talking in anecdotes sometimes, but I have an example with my daughter. She got her basic math in Poland, where they teach in a basic way. Back in Virginia, I talked to a teacher (parent-teacher). The teacher told me that my daughter was very good at math, but there was a problem. Evidently she got very unhappy when she got the answer wrong. I asked if this was not a good thing. The answer was something like, “sometimes self-esteem is more important than the right answer.” This goes against what I believe. I think you should earn high self esteem or respect by doing the right things and doing them right.

Posted by: C&J at February 27, 2012 7:35 AM
Comment #337289

The problem is that there are not sufficient job opportunities for those with advanced degrees in science and technology. It is a job gap, not an educational gap. The gravitation of advanced science and technology graduates to finance and other fields is not simply higher pay, it is simply the opportunity for employment.

Hence the derivative driven financial collapse. See Margin Call.

Posted by: ohrealy at February 27, 2012 1:18 PM
Comment #337315

I would say it’s globalisation on track. Corporations moved jobs and facilities offshore to begin ‘buying the best gov’t’ they can afford and rolling over small nations with no laws or resources to fight back. In seeking a common denominator for wages Corpocracy flooded the US with workers at all levels. With fewer lucrative jobs and falling wages workers couldn’t hold up the ever pricier housing market. Great for the Corpocracy. Squeezed by debt, the family till emptied and a little manipulation of gas prices, the Corpocracy can ride the good ole USA right down to $4.05/hr if they choose.

And all the 545 say AMEN!

Otherwise - - -

Posted by: Roy Ellis at February 27, 2012 9:43 PM
Comment #337317

Re gas prices - actually gas prices have not gone up very much. The dollar has declined in value. If we were using dollars valued at what it was in a few years ago, oil prices would be more or less stable.

It is like the feeling that you get looking out a train window when the train next to yours starts to move. You think you are moving, but it really is just the illusion.

Posted by: C&J at February 27, 2012 11:01 PM
Comment #337318

Put another way - - - if driving to and from work eats up 10% of your budget then you’ve got a problem. If gas was $3/gal with 10% inflation that would be something like $3.30/gal, etc.

And, who would want to pay $4/5 gal with natural gas at like $2.30 equiv? I dunno - - - maybe we could ask the 545.

Yeah, maybe we could ask the 545 why THE PEOPLE HAVE NO VOICE. The Courts can amend, congress can amend, corpocracy can amend. What happened with the people? What happened to that part of the Consitution called Article V Convention where if the people petition and 3/4s of the state legislators adopt then an AVC is ”’preemptory””, automatic, or so that’s what the words read like in the original version of the Constitution.

Are the 545 complicit, lying, ignorant of the Constitution? Or, are they SO in bed with the Corpocracy they can’t raise up to flip on the AVC switch?

The 545 can nuke Russia or China or both. They can tax you and me to 99%. But, they can’t, wouldn’t, couldn’t, shouldn’t tell BP or Exxon to cool their jets.

My, my, my - - - wouldn’t be this way if GW or TJ were still around.

Otherwise - - -

Posted by: Roy Ellis at February 27, 2012 11:49 PM
Comment #337320

make that 2/3rds of the states and ‘peremptory’

Posted by: Roy Ellis at February 28, 2012 12:06 AM
Comment #337322


C&J, one of the classes I taught was a combination of 6Th, 7Th, and 8Th graders that could not perform at a 5Th grade level. They were shuffled into a class by themselves and for all intents forgotten about. The school did not spend a lot of resources on these children even though their funding was dependent on the number of students. They did have special programs for the gifted students.

I don’t see your equity issue, both teachers and school administrations tend to dote on the gifted students, they are especially happy when a student achieves accolades that give the school some bragging rights over the other schools. It is to academics much the same as winning the state basketball tournament.

Why do you think D.C. spends more per student than Fairfax County,Va.? Are there any significant differences between the school districts?

Posted by: jlw at February 28, 2012 1:49 AM
Comment #337324

jlw

I think the difference between Fairfax and DC shows the affects of culture. This is something we are loath to address. We spend money instead of to change behaviors.

I think we are too “understanding”. We have a good pattern to follow. In the early 1900s, we were more a country of immigrants than we are today. New York city public schools absorbed millions of huddled masses, many of whose first language was not English and who lived at a level of poverty largely unknown today. Yet these schools produced authors, scientists and Nobel Prize winners. Why can’t we do that today?

IMO because we have lost our way. Back then the public schools celebrated the American heritage. Their main job was to bring these disparate groups into the mainstream. Kids of Poland & Russia were taught that their heroes were George Washington & Thomas Jefferson. They didn’t work to maintain the old-world languages. They knew that English was more important than anything else and the fasted way to learn English was to demand English only. The schools did not celebrate differences among groups and build self-esteem; they taught subjects and let the students and their families build self-respect as Americana.

We have come a long way since then in terms of our vastly greater wealth, amazing technology and proven techniques. It is a great shame that we all these resources we cannot do as well as our great grandparents did in crowed classrooms with resources we would scoff at today.

Re basketball - it is a bit off subject, but I think some schools emphasize sports too much.

Posted by: C&J at February 28, 2012 7:12 AM
Comment #337350


C&J, public schools weren’t a gift of government, they were a demand of the public. The same forces that created the public school system also created all the other progressive legislation, and the majority of those forces were Christian and based on the teachings of Jesus.

Few capitalists were interested in the education of the children of the working class. They prefered the children be in their factories and coal mines.

Lost our way? I agree. If there is anything that has been elevated to a religious state in this country it is competition and the pursuit of wealth. We are being assailed by the forces that glorify individualism and competition and denounce most forms of collectivism as evil rather than embrace them as a partner. For these forces, the only collectivism’s that are acceptable are corporation, the C of C, militarism and religion, and that pretty much sums up the Republican party.

“the effects of culture.” Absolutely, I couldn’t agree more.

I did the comparison. One right wing site said that the D.C. schools spend more than $28,000 per student. the Washington Post had an article that said they were spending more than $16,000 per student, but at the very end of the article, it said that the D.C. schools are now spending less than $10,000 per student.

Fairfax county is one of the wealthiest communities on earth. The median income is well over $100,000 per year. Half the fortune 500 companies call it home. It is rather nice to only have to tax $13,407 per student, especially when these corporations are contributing to the school system. There is no way to even compare the opportunities available to those children with those of the kids of D.C.

My community is building a new K thru 12 school to replace our century old schools. That is all we can afford and I can assure you that no fortune 500 company has offered us a dime in assistance.

Fairfax County, Va. can afford to take over the D.C. schools and show the country how to make it work, right? Take it over and prove that the liberals have screwed it all up for the sake of a handful of votes. Prove that your talking points are the real deal. Change the culture of that community.

You seem to think that the poor don’t preach the evils of getting involved with gangs, drugs, etc. to their children They do. But that is the only economy those kids know. Few kids in America face the risks and negative roll models that are apart of these kids lives.

I agree, throwing money at education isn’t a panacea. People have to really care about changing the situation.

But, some people just like to play with the inner city kids, using them as a political football.

Posted by: jlw at February 28, 2012 8:56 PM
Comment #337426

C&J,

I always use the past tense in all my foreign languages except the current one. I know my limitations.

Got it, now I understand. However, if you were in a situation where you used three languages in your every day life, I think you’d be able to maintain your multilinguality. Nevertheless, you still seem to have a knack for learning new languages even if you can only maintain one at a time, which is why I brought your talent up in my discussion of mathematics.

It is just that in my recent visits to tech firms and engineering departments, I have seen very few native Americans

I think both of you are right. There are to few native Americans, but too many graduates. The difference being made up with foreign students.

Rich,

Simply not true. The fastest growing segment of the US educational system since I went to school is advanced placement classes. Compare class arrangements 30 years ago to today in any middle class school in any school district in the nation. The most striking difference would be in the number of special “advanced” educational opportunities offered students and qualifying college level classes offered highly performing students.

Although High School has become more stratified, primary education has become more equalized, which is what C&J are complaining about.

C&J,

My kids went to school in Fairfax County, VA, which has excellent public schools. But even there, they are not as rigorous as they should be. We have an excellent science and tech HS, called Thomas Jefferson. It is hard to get into that, which as it should be. We need a few more like that.

When I captained my High School’s National Science Bowl team, TJ had a reputation for excellence; they’ve won the NSB several times recently, but TJ is magnet school so it’s hard to compare with my school. My school was located in an affluent suburb of Boston, but it was not a magnet school. It drew from a relatively small population and consequently fewer truly bright students. Nevertheless, the TJ model appears elsewhere. Take a look at the Bronx High School of Science for instance.

Fairfax spends less money per pupil than does DC

DC schools have a greater percentage of children who come from impoverished and/or immigrant backgrounds. Often the school has to deal with additional problems associated with poverty, which means they need to spend more per pupil.

Re basketball - it is a bit off subject, but I think some schools emphasize sports too much.
I agree 100%
I think we are too “understanding”. We have a good pattern to follow. In the early 1900s, we were more a country of immigrants than we are today. New York city public schools absorbed millions of huddled masses, many of whose first language was not English and who lived at a level of poverty largely unknown today. Yet these schools produced authors, scientists and Nobel Prize winners. Why can’t we do that today?

IMO because we have lost our way. Back then the public schools celebrated the American heritage. Their main job was to bring these disparate groups into the mainstream. Kids of Poland & Russia were taught that their heroes were George Washington & Thomas Jefferson. They didn’t work to maintain the old-world languages. They knew that English was more important than anything else and the fasted way to learn English was to demand English only. The schools did not celebrate differences among groups and build self-esteem; they taught subjects and let the students and their families build self-respect as Americana.

I think you overestimate our schools from a century ago. Very few of those immigrant children graduated from high school or went to college. Public school taught them English & Arithmetic and then they dropped out in order to go get a job. The 3R’s worked well when our economy relied on a great deal of nonskilled/semiskilled labor. However, that isn’t enough to work in the 21st century.

Posted by: Warped Reality at February 29, 2012 12:30 AM
Comment #337476

Warped

It worked for the needs of the time. In addition to that, it made Americans out of diverse foreign nationalities.

Re immigrants in DC and Fairfax - we have a much more diverse population in Fairfax. In fact, Fairfax is one of the most diverse counties in the U.S. - in the real meaning of the term, i.e. lots of different types of people.

Posted by: C&J at March 1, 2012 12:47 AM
Comment #337493

I think the problem is that our cultural assumption is that unskilled factory and service jobs will be open to those who fail to apply themselves in school. The truth is, that won’t be the case. The easy technological jobs are gone overseas. Advanced work is the main viable option.

That said, though, This isn’t Lake Wobegon- that is, the children are not all above average.

THAT said, though, I think America as a culture underestimates its own innate potential. So, average doesn’t have to be where it naturally tends to lie.

But I think it will take a cultural, even government-level effort to change this. We need to stop bemoaning how stupid our country’s gotten, and make the demands of our children on a cultural basis that need to be made.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at March 1, 2012 11:10 AM
Comment #337518

“It is just that in my recent visits to tech firms and engineering departments, I have seen very few native Americans (here I don’t mean Indians, but rather Americans born in the U.S. i.e. native by the real meaning)in those places.”

C&J,

I think that Roy has nailed the issue on the head. It is not that there are not Americans interested or capable in the STEM fields. It is that US corporations can hire foreign workers for a fraction of the salaries commanded by native born Americans. It is no mistake that you will see few native born Americans in STEM positions in US tech firms and departments.

Talk to any experienced native born American in the STEM fields and you will soon understand that foreign workers are literally taking their jobs from them. Talk to any recent American advanced graduate in the STEM field and you will soon recognize that they are competing with foreigners willing to work at subsistence wages.

If there is little economic incentive for Americans to enter the advanced STEM fields, the results are predicable.


Posted by: Rich at March 1, 2012 8:00 PM
Comment #337568

In any discussion of education,STEM, etc. It is a good idea to remember Steve Jobs. His educational background was not primarily math but liberal arts based and that is where his genuise laid. Pixar animation etc. Would he have thought of the ipod if he was not a music lover? If you ask me that is a strength for Americans and should be utlilized.

Posted by: bills at March 3, 2012 6:53 AM
Comment #337577

Rich

I talked to some of the technicians, who make around $90,000 a year. If this is “subsistence” I bet there are a lot of people who might want to subsist on that. Engineers were making more.

At schools like NC State, they told me that most of their students get paid internships that often lead to jobs. There seems to be a really good market for people in the applied harder sciences and engineering, even in the recession.

Posted by: C&J at March 3, 2012 8:42 PM
Comment #337587

C&J,

The key term is “often” in your comment from NC State and other schools is that their graduates get “..internships that often lead to real jobs.”

But, we don’t really have to guess about the job market for US advanced STEM graduates. The fact of the matter is that we are overproducing such graduates. “According to the National Science Board’s authoritative publication Science and Engineering Indicators 2008, the country turns out three times as many STEM degrees as the economy can absorb into jobs related to their majors.” http://www.cjr.org/reports/what_scientist_shortage.php

“There seems to be a really good market for people in the applied harder sciences and engineering, even in the recession.”

Not so according those who have studied the field. “Contrary to some of the discussion here this morning, the STEM job market is mired in a jobs recession…with unemployment rates…two to three times what we would expect at full employment….Loopholes have made it too easy to bring in cheaper foreign workers with ordinary skills…to directly substitute for, rather than complement, American workers. The programs are clearly displacing and denying opportunities to American workers.” http://www.cjr.org/reports/what_scientist_shortage.php

Once again, you should talk in more depth to those in the STEM field about the impact of H-1B on American jobs. You should recognize that it is in the interests of corporations to maintain the myth of STEM shortages in order to maintain a high level of available visas.

See also,

http://puffthemutantdragon.wordpress.com/2011/10/09/do-we-need-more-scientists/

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/college_guide/blog/do_we_really_have_a_scientist.php

Posted by: Rich at March 4, 2012 9:33 AM
Comment #337592

Rich

I don’t know about how these stats are gathered. Maybe they include social scientists and/or those kinds of semi-scientific environmental policy guys.

There is also a definite problem with applied science v more theoretical ones.

I know that recent American graduates in computer engineering are having no trouble getting jobs even in this tough economy and they are making good money.

It is true that there are relatively fewer native Americans in lots of the science jobs and clearly native white, black and Hispanic are underrepresented. But this seems to have a lot more to do with lack of preparation. Few native Americans take calculus or statistics in HS.

Posted by: C&J at March 4, 2012 4:26 PM
Comment #337596

C&J,

The articles linked and the statistics are gathered from the basic STEM fields, not from softer fields.

Contrary to your assertion, there are plenty of native US capable and prepared STEM graduates at all levels but there is a “leakage” along the pipeline from education to jobs. Either they are going into alternative fields for greater economic incentive (e.g., Wall Street) or are leaving the field due to economic disincentive (foreign worker and student visas). http://policy.rutgers.edu/faculty/salzman/steadyasshegoes.pdf

Whatever the case, economic incentives for Americans to enter and remain in the STEM field at the highest level need to be addressed.

I think it is also important to distinguish between technical competence to handle modern computer driven manufacturing. etc. and high level expertise in the STEM field.

Posted by: Rich at March 4, 2012 8:14 PM
Comment #337602

Rich

“I think it is also important to distinguish between technical competence to handle modern computer driven manufacturing. etc. and high level expertise in the STEM field.”

This is a good point. The need for totally unskilled labor has almost disappeared as the crappy jobs have been replaced by machines and today we need people to run more complicated processes.


I still worry about the top performers. This is not a matter of low pay. The guys in charge of firms and tech departments are much more likely to be foreign born. These jobs pay extremely well, so it is not that firms are going for low-paid workers. Beyond that, many of the top jobs are filled by people who created the company. This is not a matter of pay.

Posted by: C&J at March 4, 2012 9:56 PM
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