U.S. Education no longer Leads the World in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 22nd, 2012

Week in Review

There’s bad news.  And news that’s not as good as the bad news.  There’s structural unemployment.  And we’re dumbing down our educational system (see For the U.S. Economy the News Is Bad and Worse by Mortimer B. Zuckerman posted 7/18/2012 on U.S. News and World Report).

Given that the median period of unemployment is now in the range of five months, vast numbers who want to work are just not counted. If we include, as we should, people who have applied for a job in the last 12 months, and those employed part time who want full-time work, the real unemployment number is closer to 15 percent. And we’ve made virtually no progress in reducing this number. We need 150,000 jobs every month just to take into account the people entering the labor force. Today we are looking at monthly job creation estimates of only 75,000 over the last three months.

We do track this true unemployment number.  We just don’t report it.  The official number we report is the U-3 unemployment rate.  The one that includes everyone who can’t find a full time job is the U-6 unemployment rate.  And it does stand around 15%.  So why does the U.S. continue to suffer through the worst recession since the Great Depression?  Because of structural unemployment.  Meaning people lost their jobs because the economy no longer needs their jobs.  Think of print newspapers going out of business because of digital news available online.  The world changes.  And we replace the old technology with new technology.  Meaning there are jobs for who drives this technological change.  And no jobs for those who cling on to the technological past.  So you want to be the people driving this new technology.  Which requires the best education.

Here now is the worse news: America is adding to the length of unemployment lines in the future by falling behind today in skill areas where global competition has become so intense. Too few of our younger people are benefiting from what is called STEM education. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, the human capital at the core of any productive economy…

A stunning illustration of how far America has started to lag in training its youth is that we are only one of three countries in the 34-member Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development where the youngsters are not better qualified than their fathers and mothers. Men and women ages 55 to 64 have the same or better education than the 25-to-34 generation. The younger workers in most other OECD countries are much better educated than those nearing retirement…

In a 2010 report by the academies, an advisory group on science and technology, the United States ranked 27th among 29 wealthy countries in the proportion of college students with degrees in science and engineering. In a larger study conducted by the OECD in 2009, American 15-year-olds were 31st in math and 23rd in science. Yet another study found American 12th graders near the bottom of students from 20 nations, and this doesn’t even focus on the achievement gap between low-income and minority students and their peers…

Astonishingly, according to recent studies, about 30 percent of high school math students and 60 percent of those in the physical sciences are taught by instructors who either did not major in the subject or are not certified to teach it.

Sadly, the U.S. no longer has the best education.  Sure, students today can recite every bad thing America has done as a nation.   Tell you the inherent evils of capitalism.  And they can tell you everything you want to know about global warming.  But they’re not smarter than their parents.  Which is why our kids today won’t have a better life than their parents.  Because our educational system is dumbing them down.  Making them prime candidates for structural unemployment.  For the sad truth our college graduates are learning today is that having a college degree isn’t all that is necessary for a good job.  You need a degree in something useful.  And the liberal arts and social sciences just aren’t going to give you the science, technology, engineering and mathematics you need to compete in the global economy.

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