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Why science careers, and courses, aren't so popular

I know how high school course choices affect college chances, but I know much less about how they affect lives. For that kind of advice, I rely on some experienced career specialists, such as Ann Emerson of Stafford County public schools.

She sent me a refreshingly cool appraisal of the red hot national campaign to expand math and science education. She explains why we are having such trouble persuading students to pursue careers in chemistry, psychometrics, physics, biotechnology and related pursuits.

The full term for this most fashionable of all 21st-century education trends is STEM, short for science, technology, engineering and math. STEM advocates want to put more emphasis on these subjects in school. They want to train more teachers in these disciplines and produce more professionals in these fields.

The Obama administration loves the idea. The Bush administration loved it. Colleges, from the biggest to the smallest, look for STEM grants. STEM is popular from sea to oily sea, from the mountains to the prairies, to every school board in every town in the nation.
The only people having difficulty getting excited about STEM are the students who must take and pass the courses if the movement is to succeed.

Emerson says it is important for career specialists such as herself “to convey that STEM is not a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Here in the U.S., people choose science careers because they are profoundly curious and excited about the way science and technology improve human existence. There are plenty of frustrations, and not a lot of financial rewards, at least not the type that U.S. kids are aware of, based on their familiarity with the income of sports and entertainment figures.”

If your child has been bitten by the STEM bug, fine. There will be college bills to pay, but graduate school won’t be as financially painful as law or med school because universities need cheap labor in labs and many large financial interests are supporting the STEM pipeline.

Many people with math and science training still choose business and finance because the financial rewards are so much greater. And some who start on the STEM track are scared off. I did a story about freshman year at Georgia Tech that reawakened old nightmares about being back in college, at exam time, having learned nothing.

The saving grace of STEM for the rest of us, Emerson says, is the chance to acquire in high school (for most people their last chance) something she calls STEM literacy.
“Many of our compelling health and environmental problems do not respond to knee-jerk pronouncements or simplistic formulas,” she said. “We need people who contribute innovation in science and technology, but we need far more people who can understand nuances, spend the difficult time it takes to formulate priorities and be aware of the unintended consequences of short-sighted fixes.”

Want some fun? Go to the Labor Department’s Occupational Outlook page and find the interest profiler, which tells you which of your interests fits best with productive work. One of the six main characteristics is “investigative,” for people with strong curiosity or analytical skills. Only about 10.percent of jobs have that trait as a No. 1 indicator, and that includes everyone from Stephen Hawking to your dentist.

High school science courses are still good for you. I confess I dropped physics to take a student council period instead. I have since learned it was the only course I had in high school that would have forced me to think, really think, rather than memorize.

That lack of mental exercise has been a problem for me ever since then.

Read Jay's blog every day, and follow all of The Post's Education coverage on Twitter, Facebook and our Education Web page.

By Jay Mathews  | October 7, 2010; 11:58 AM ET
Categories:  Local Living  | Tags:  Ann Emerson, STEM programs, Stafford County public schools, engineering, math, science, science courses often too touch, science jobs not well paid, technology  
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Comments

Any smart student familiar at all with basic economics will be asking himself, if STEM is so badly needed and so highly valued, then why doesn't it pay better? A typical post-doc (someone with a doctoral degree), for example, earns less than $50,000 a year and has no guarantee of even having a career in science after several years of research as a post-doc.

At least part of the answer is, that there really is no large demand for these skills by American employers because that demand is already being met largely through the importation of foreign graduate students in STEM and the use of the H1-B visa program. The National Science Foundation as part of national policy has encouraged the use of foreign graduate students as a way to keep academic and research salaries down. Foreign graduate students usually want a green card to remain here and are willing to put up with bad working conditions and low salaries, whereas, for Americans, the opportunity cost of going to grad school is simply too great. THEY don't need green cards. Likewise, most H1-Bs are NOT the "best and the brightest" as publicity would have us believe, but simply average workers who are willing to accept lower wages than Americans would in return for the expectation that their employer will--eventually--sponsor them for a green card. Since it now takes several years to get a green card, that's several years in which the employee is NOT free to change jobs or ask for much higher wages.

While encouraging students to take STEM classes is fine, as Mr. Mathews points out, law and business often pay better and offer more security, not because we need lawyers more than scientists, but because law, with its dependence on language ability and culture, is a tougher nut for non Westerners to crack--and lawyers are better at defending their own interests.

Posted by: Ali4 | October 7, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Any smart student familiar at all with basic economics will be asking himself, if STEM is so badly needed and so highly valued, then why doesn't it pay better? A typical post-doc (someone with a doctoral degree), for example, earns less than $50,000 a year and has no guarantee of even having a career in science after several years of research as a post-doc.

At least part of the answer is, that there really is no large demand for these skills by American employers because that demand is already being met largely through the importation of foreign graduate students in STEM and the use of the H1-B visa program. The National Science Foundation as part of national policy has encouraged the use of foreign graduate students as a way to keep academic and research salaries down. Foreign graduate students usually want a green card to remain here and are willing to put up with bad working conditions and low salaries, whereas, for Americans, the opportunity cost of going to grad school is simply too great. THEY don't need green cards. Likewise, most H1-Bs are NOT the "best and the brightest" as publicity would have us believe, but simply average workers who are willing to accept lower wages than Americans would in return for the expectation that their employer will--eventually--sponsor them for a green card. Since it now takes several years to get a green card, that's several years in which the employee is NOT free to change jobs or ask for much higher wages.

While encouraging students to take STEM classes is fine, as Mr. Mathews points out, law and business often pay better and offer more security, not because we need lawyers more than scientists, but because law, with its dependence on language ability and culture, is a tougher nut for non Westerners to crack--and lawyers are better at defending their own interests.

Posted by: Ali4 | October 7, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Fields that Americans dominated in 2000 are no longer for Americans and the enrollments of American have dropped in the key fields of the 21st century. No sense in spending $50,000 to $100,000 for education in a field where there are no jobs for Americans.

The House Committee on Science and Technology June 12, 2007

As Dr. Alan Blinder, one of today’s witnesses testified, these examples seem to be only the tip of the iceberg. Dr. Blinder has estimated that more than one in four American jobs are vulnerable to offshoring. More striking is his finding that most American technical jobs in the sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields are amongst the most vulnerable to offshoring.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 7, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

not because we need lawyers more than scientists, but because law, with its dependence on language ability and culture, is a tougher nut for non Westerners to crack--and lawyers are better at defending their own interests.

Posted by: Ali4
........................
Jobs for new American lawyers are being offshored to cheap foreign labor and there will be shortly be decreases in Americans enrolling to study the law.

Look for Visa for cheap foreign workers in American law firms soon.

The reality is that almost no one goes into a field when there are no jobs after graduation from college.

Outsourcing to India Draws Western Lawyers, NY Times

Posted by: bsallamack | October 7, 2010 1:21 PM | Report abuse

I work as an occasional volunteer for math and science at a local high school. It's what I love doing.

When I ask some kids why they aren't interested in pursuing math and physics -- those I think show potential -- I receive a number of responses. Some are depressed that they have no real hope for a decent environment that is unwinding before their eyes and feel powerless to do anything about it; some feel it is way too much work and the pay will never be worth the struggle; some see others being so selfish and greedy, taking everything so that there will be nothing left; some just feel adults don't care about them so they won't care, either.

A lot of apathy, by and large.

The kids don't tell me this, but it is something I see because I've lived long enough...

Why did I care? What motivated me to read a chapter five times until I got it? Why did I go to the University library as a teenager, on my own and alone, just to study science on the 5th floor there? What made me do these things -- what was my payoff?

Part of it was that at that time I could do stuff I cared about. I was able to order dangerous chemicals as a child -- yes, I could order 5 lbs of picric acid and have it shipped by train to a 16 year old, back then. I built telescopes on my own because, back then, there were two dozen different companies selling hobbyist quantities of glass -- no longer so. I made rockets and rocket fuel and launched them. I made firecrackers. In my senior year at high school, our teacher had a masters from Northwestern U and we sat in the room making crystals out of styrofoam balls and sticks and used a klystron to illuminate it, with watt meters then to measure diffraction. We did stuff that was fun, both with and without supervision.

How is a student to learn about geology, and to find joy in the learning, without a field trip and a hammer in hand?

Kids need light, action, smoke, fire, stuff that pays back during that time of their life when they haven't yet acquired an adult's long term perspective about delayed payoffs and intrinsic motivations. A child _will_ hit the books, if there is a payoff soon at hand. They will learn a little geometry to get to launch an Estes rocket. They will learn some trigonometry if they get to use that to run stepper motors attached to a milling machine. They will learn and work through the troubles, if they are allowed to have some fun.

Yes, there are risks to climbing rocks to learn geology, or in setting up a room sized crystal to be irradiated, or in doing chemistry that has smoke or fire involved. But the upside is that they will work, too.

Schools are so terribly concerned with risk avoidance. Not risk management, as they should be. But out and out risk avoidance. Field trips are way down. Partly, because of budget priorities. But partly because of easy-to-justify risk avoidance.

Kids need fun and excitement to engage difficult subjects.

I had that. They don't. No payoff, now.

Posted by: trapezium | October 7, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

STEM advocates want to put more emphasis on these subjects in school. They want to train more teachers in these disciplines and produce more professionals in these fields.
........................
American Software Developer. $50,000 to $100,000 to obtain a Bachelor of Sciences in the computer sciences.

Offshore cheap foreign software developer paid to do work for an American company at $4.87 per hour.

In 5 years there will be almost no Americans enrolled for careers in the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 7, 2010 1:33 PM | Report abuse

"At least part of the answer is, that there really is no large demand for these skills by American employers because that demand is already being met largely through the importation of foreign graduate students in STEM and the use of the H1-B visa program"

dingdingdingdingding.

That's exactly right. Not only that, many of these foreign students are subsidized by their own countries.

We need to stop making college so cheap for foreigners.

Posted by: Cal_Lanier | October 7, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

and not a lot of financial rewards, at least not the type that U.S. kids are aware of, based on their familiarity with the income of sports and entertainment figures.
......................
If this was correct students would not be interested in any career that was not in sports or entertainment.

We really need to start logic again in high schools and colleges.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 7, 2010 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Jay,

On another topic, Superintendent Jerry Weast is no longer releasing budget and staffing data to the Washington Area Board of Education Guide. The Guide has been around since 1971.

We know that Jerry Weast is "data driven" so will you be reporting on the data that he used to provide the WABE Guide?

Any suggestions on where the public will be able to get access to all of this budget and staffing information?

Posted by: jzsartucci | October 7, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse

trapezium: Just beautiful. Thank you.

I also agree with those that have mentioned the foreign grad seats as well as the competition for research positions and jobs following graduation.

I have a son who recently landed a nice job as a scientist just prior to graduation with his MS. His degree is in a fairly new field. He is now feeling the pain of the student loan payments in addition to the usual living expenses. Also, being a young man of high integrity, he wishes to only present quality work having greown up on stories of great scientists, and his character reflects personal growth from those readings. Familiar with RJ Mitchell? How many high school kids have knowledge of some of history's great scientists, beyond perhaps a "newsbite" kind of knowledge? They need inspiration and the stuff of which trapezium speaks. Sadly, the pace of high school can hinder real education. Asking, designing, researching, solving..... Summers, well, there is required reading for English class, maybe a job to help save for college, etc. We have conditioned our kids to get enough done for good grades (on multiple choice tests really), but the joy and intrinsic drive have fallen by the wayside.

Posted by: shadwell1 | October 7, 2010 2:12 PM | Report abuse

"Any smart student familiar at all with basic economics will be asking himself, if STEM is so badly needed and so highly valued, then why doesn't it pay better?"

You miss the point entirely. STEM is critical to any number of jobs, not just PhDs.

"At least part of the answer is, that there really is no large demand for these skills by American employers because that demand is already being met largely through the importation of foreign graduate students in STEM and the use of the H1-B visa program."

That's just plain wrong. We need to do the oppoosite and make it easier for these students and workers to stay here and create new businesses and innovations here. Ever heard of Google or Intel?

"We need to stop making college so cheap for foreigners"

College is more expensive for foreigners, not less. It's their full tuition that subsidizes scholarships for Americans.

Posted by: horacemann | October 7, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Great comments. I am learning much here. For jzsartucci, what does Weast, or Dana Tofig, say when you ask this question?

Posted by: Jay Mathews | October 7, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

"Any smart student familiar at all with basic economics will be asking himself, if STEM is so badly needed and so highly valued, then why doesn't it pay better?"

You miss the point entirely. STEM is critical to any number of jobs, not just PhDs.
---------Yup, as the author of this piece pointed out. Except that students aren't going into STEM but into business. I did a Ph.D. in marketing and we had any number of refugees from math and stat as well as engineering, because the pay and working conditions were better.

"At least part of the answer is, that there really is no large demand for these skills by American employers because that demand is already being met largely through the importation of foreign graduate students in STEM and the use of the H1-B visa program."

That's just plain wrong. We need to do the oppoosite and make it easier for these students and workers to stay here and create new businesses and innovations here. Ever heard of Google or Intel?
------------Yup, I've heard of Google and Intel, and Sergei Brin didn't come on H1-B or student visas but with his family. Gordon E. Moore and Robert Noyce, AMERICANS, are the founders of Intel and the technological geniuses. Andy Grove came on later as an executive. Most H1-Bs as I said are average workers doing average jobs but doing it for less than American workers. IF they're that bright, then they can sponsor themselves for an O-visa.

"We need to stop making college so cheap for foreigners"

College is more expensive for foreigners, not less. It's their full tuition that subsidizes scholarships for Americans.
------Only undergrads. Grad students are heavily subsidized. I know. I had a fellowship provided by the federal gov't which enabled the grad school I went to to offer tuition remission to a foreign student who was literally on his way home. Money freed up because of the federal funding I got. Other foreign students had research and teaching assistantships paid for by the school. (I recall some of the Indian students saying something that there was a way for them to avoid paying U.S. taxes on this money, even though I even had to pay taxes on my fellowship.)


Posted by: horacemann

Posted by: Ali4 | October 7, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

The shelf life of an average computer science or IT degree is 10 to 15 years, after which a technical employee is considered to be outdated. Companies refuse to offer training or to entertain the notion that an employee over 40 might be able to learn new technologies. Many kids heading to college have a parent or other relative who worked in the tech sector and then had the joy of training his or her replacement in Bangalore.

Posted by: bkmny | October 7, 2010 4:54 PM | Report abuse

"At least part of the answer is, that there really is no large demand for these skills by American employers because that demand is already being met largely through the importation of foreign graduate students in STEM and the use of the H1-B visa program."

That's just plain wrong. We need to do the oppoosite and make it easier for these students and workers to stay here and create new businesses and innovations here. Ever heard of Google or Intel?
Posted by: horacemann
...............................
horacemann should actually do some reading about the problem.

Millions of visa for cheap foreign labor. And I know these workers. They are turned out of cheap colleges in third world nations and are about as third rate as the education they received.

At the same time millions of American jobs have been offshored to the cheap foreign labor from the cheap colleges in third world nations.

Far more American born have created the innovation in the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics than the few immigrants that you or anyone else can mention.

So your logic which is the logic of the American companies that want cheap foreign labor falls short, since it is necessary to have Americans enroll in these fields since they are responsible for most of the innovation.

The United States does not need this cheap foreign labor since it is preventing Americans from enrolling in the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Prior to 2001 and the offshoring and visas Americans dominated the world in the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

And oh by the way all those cheap foreign workers on visas are coming from companies that are taking a hefty bite out of there paychecks.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 7, 2010 5:39 PM | Report abuse

The shelf life of an average computer science or IT degree is 10 to 15 years, after which a technical employee is considered to be outdated.
Posted by: bkmny
.....................
The shelf life is longer for those who keep up with the technology.

At 62 after major operation I was doing 80 hours a week to get out a top government project. There are no younger Americans to do this work. After college you need at least 5 years in entry level jobs to gain expertise with major systems.

There are no Americans enrolled in the computer sciences since they all know the there are no jobs for Americans.

The same thing is happening in all the STEM fields. The only exception is civil engineering because you can not offshore the entry level jobs since you have to work on site.

If nothing is done in 10 years you have no Americans in these fields and it will be other nations that will create the innovations and benefit from them.

Other nations have policies to build their expertise in these fields, while the policy of the United States is to simply allow American companies destroy the world lead the United States had in these fields in 2000.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 7, 2010 5:50 PM | Report abuse

The reality is that if the United States does not about the problem of no jobs for Americans in these fields after graduation from college this is no point in even educating Americans in these fields in public schools.

Bill Gates as CEO of Microsoft oversaw the offshoring of American jobs.

Later he commented upon the lack of Americans enrolled in the fields where he offshored American jobs.

The government of the United States needs to recognize that the business interests of replacing Americans in the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics is not in the interests of the United States.

Oh by the way while Bill Gates was offshoring American jobs his foundation was contributing to the public education in the third world nation where he was offshoring American jobs.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 7, 2010 5:57 PM | Report abuse

Hello, trapesium. Yes, you understand what kids need and want from science and from learning in general, but nothing you can say about it will reach a single one of these curmudgeons. Kids still want the thrill of galvanized attention which leads to sustained mental engagement, and they can still get it from us grizzled old guerrilla science teachers. I don't know how many more years we're good for, though, so anybody younger out there who wants to come on board, please step forward.

What we teach isn't just exploration or investigation. It is connected thought and action, intention and effect, observation and conclusion, insight, extension, accomodation, insight, and agency. For a bonus, it pops and sparks and fizzes.

The beat up old building may fall down around us any minute, but my students have a cluster of desks at the end of their lab benches. We're five weeks in, and they can walk around the room productive, engaged, free and comfortable in their own minds and skins. They don't need any fear to keep them in line.

We have to confront accuracy, precision, error, and significant figures. I set up ten measurement and calculation puzzles at the lab stations, with 3 old flat pan balances, two cheap stop watches, old meter sticks with worn ends, magnificent 100, 200, and 500 ml graduated cylinders and assorted beakers, calipers, huge cats-eye marbles and a fine old crackle-glazed Japanese teacup. The fifteen-year-olds trouped through the activities, trying strategies and offering counter-arguments, explaining their interpretations and demonstrating their insights. They remembered, discovered, calculated and wrote derived units. And they never spared a thought about corporate profits, or our competitiveness with Hong Kong.

Jay, do you think physics could really have held you down and somehow "forced" you to think?

Posted by: mport84 | October 7, 2010 6:00 PM | Report abuse

We need to stop making college so cheap for foreigners.

Posted by: Cal_Lanier
.........................
Foreign students pay more than Americans at our colleges and universities.

The real problem is that in the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics the majority of students are foreign students now.

Some of the supporters of using cheap foreign labor now pretend that the lack of Americans enrolled is because Americans are not smart enough or educated enough for these fields. These are the same CEO's that want to replace every American with cheap foreign labor.

Americans simply will not enroll in fields where there are no jobs for Americans.

There would be few Americans who would enroll in these fields even if the government would pay the full expenses of higher education for Americans.

There makes little sense to obtain a free education for a field where there are jobs for Americans.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 7, 2010 6:15 PM | Report abuse

Jay, Thanks for the suggestion. I have asked. We'll see what the response it.

For your readers, the Washington Area Boards of Education Guide for FY11 is a great resource of D.C. area school system enrollment and funding information. Really important information in this budget climate when classroom needs are great.
Here's the link to this year's Guide (minus Montgomery County Public Schools)
http://www.apsva.us/15401081151845893/lib/15401081151845893/FY2011WABE_10-6.pdf

Posted by: jzsartucci | October 7, 2010 6:21 PM | Report abuse

What we teach isn't just exploration or investigation. It is connected thought and action, intention and effect, observation and conclusion, insight, extension, accomodation, insight, and agency. For a bonus, it pops and sparks and fizzes.
Posted by: mport84
..........
Fine one could teach all of this with geometry and without the pops and sparks.

In reality since this is the 21st century there should be robots in the high school which do not explode. For years Lego has had an inexpensive robot kit. Then there are the cheap electricity kits from Radio Shack.

But what is the point of this anymore.

Time for the old teachers to understand that the business plan is offshore every American job of an American in an office or a laboratory. If the job uses scientific equipment and computer technology equipment it is gone from the United States for all the American companies. At the same time the business plan is to demand more visas each year for foreign workers for when they can not offshore jobs.

The reality is that the public education of Americans in the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics are no longer required. Why hire a science or math teacher for American public schools when there are no longer jobs for Americans in these fields? Teaching Americans simply lower level arithmetic is all that is necessary, since the American companies will use cheap foreign labor for the American jobs in these fields.

Time for the older teachers to understand the United States now and not the United States that once was.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 7, 2010 6:36 PM | Report abuse

The only people having difficulty getting excited about STEM are the students who must take and pass the courses if the movement is to succeed.
Jay Mathews
....................
Jay, you are tiring.

In 1957 President Eisenhower passed programs and set policy for the United States to obtain world dominance in the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

And until 2001 the United States had world dominance in all these fields until American companies decided to simply destroy our dominance in these fields by using cheap foreign labor.

Policies of the United States in 1957 propelled students into fields since there were large numbers of new and well paying jobs. None of these Americans would have gone into these fields if there were no jobs for Americans.

Today the only people having difficulty getting excited about STEM are the students who DO NOT SEE ANY POINT WITHOUT THE PROSPECTS OF HIGH PAYING JOBS OF TAKING AND PASSING COURSES.

I do not see many American students who are willing to make an effort of study in a field where American jobs are being given to cheap foreign labor that will work for less than the pay in McDonald's.

You can not make the fields of the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics attractive to American students without well paying jobs for Americans in these fields.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 7, 2010 6:58 PM | Report abuse

There are plenty of STEM jobs in the U.S. that cannot be out-sourced. Many pay quite well even for entry level positions. How able the electrical engineer working for a utlity on the electrical power grid operate? Can't do that from India.

But the ultimate U.S. STEM jobs that cannot be out-sourced are ones that also require a security clearance. If you're not a U.S. citizen, then no security clearance. Such jobs pay REALLY well in my experience - high five figures for starters. Know that for a fact. My son grabbed one a few years out of college.

Also, it should be noted that after 10-15 years many scientists and engineers transition to the jobs that have management titles but which require significant scientific knowledge.

Even with out-sourcing in some industries for science and engineering talent, there is still a chicken-or- egg aspect to it all. If U.S. companies had more opportunities to hire U.S. citizens with STEM degrees, they likely would. I know that too from personnel experience.

The job opportunites for STEM type U.S. citizens aren't as gloomy as some would pretend.

Posted by: fairfaxvaguy | October 7, 2010 8:07 PM | Report abuse

I am sure the way to compete in the global economy is to graduate laywers and entertainers who produce nothing. If you haven't noticed, reverse brain drain of the STEM is already happening. STEM will find jobs and opportunity somewhere.

Posted by: AT_MD | October 7, 2010 9:21 PM | Report abuse

Our students (top 10 engineering school) aren't really having too many problems finding jobs. The top 2/3rds are just fine. The bottom third struggles but are certainly finding work.

Sure some folks with MBAs earn significantly more. But some earn significantly less. Startups largely come from engineers. The future of the country depends on engineers. Outsourcing is certainly an issue, but nothing so large as people seem to claim. We have folks pounding on our doors to recruit our students. I'm in my own little Ivory Tower, but I've seen what bad job situations look like. We were there 2 years ago. We're doing pretty well right now...

Posted by: bobtom222 | October 7, 2010 9:31 PM | Report abuse

STEM programs in HS and quantitative sciences in college are great forerunners to quantitative financial analysis on billions of dollars that can earn you 2%/annual fee and 20% of Alpha returns. You only need to run your hedge fund/PE fund for a few years to set yourself up for life. You can then profit from outsourcing/H1-B cheap labor and scoff at your friends in lab coats.
THAT thinking will get kids into STEM programs.

Posted by: mikey999 | October 7, 2010 9:51 PM | Report abuse

I am really surprised by many of these comments. I have never before heard that jobs in the STEM fields pay less than jobs in any other field and have only ever heard that they pay more and have greater job security.

- Any ranking of the top paying majors always starts off with engineering. In fact, the last one I read just lumped all of the engineering majors in 1 category, noting that it would've taken up 7 of the top 10. Behind that, the top paying majors were all math and chemistry related.

Engineers I know have not had much of a problem finding a job in this economy. It is the psych, English and Business majors that have the problems.

The main issue I've heard of is that people simply weren't good enough at the math to engineering or science without an incredible amount of effort. Some of this might have to do with the lack of rigor in math classes and the easy diversions into the even softer humanities.

Maybe this also has to do with a lack of competent math teachers at the elementary and middle school level. I wonder if elementary school teaches tend to devote a disproportionately low amount of time to math material simply because they don't have much background in it.

Posted by: quandary87 | October 8, 2010 12:42 AM | Report abuse

Many of these comments seem to miss the rather obvious point that these STEM courses, especially math and science, are much more difficult (in cognitive complexity, effort, etc). than those in other career pathways. It may take some relatively rare cognitive and motivational skills to pursue science, the absence of which is likely to undermine the required risk-taking and effort from many students. Students are human and often likely to take the path of least resistance.

Second, there are the ubiquitous cultural forces which shape many of our children to be more concerned with a lucrative as compared to intellectually-interesting career. We are a culture based on acquisitions, entertainment, popularity, status, and so on. STEM approaches are not exactly attractive given these goals.

Posted by: dougd1 | October 8, 2010 4:37 AM | Report abuse

I argued for a rich and rigorous, laboratory and inquiry based, science curriculum as the basis for cognitive and motivatiional strength in my students. One hour from now I actually will go into a real building to my low-income students, who so many ignorant commentators and pundits revile, and do that all day, again.

I am writing this instead of having breakfast.

We do successfully teach "connected thought and action, intention and effect, observation and conclusion, insight, extension, accomodation, insight (again), and agency."

Bsallamack is wrong when he argues, "one could teach all of this with geometry and without the pops and sparks". That's what for-profit education reform has just proven with its standardized frenzy: you can't EVEN maintain standardized test scores on rigged proprietary geometry tests with the dumb and limited model of teaching and learning the "reformers" are selling and enforcing in our public schools and charter schools.

I mention this because the economic wasteland you see around you is your own fantasy. We have a real, living world to prepare our students for. We, and they, are not going to freeze and starve among the ruins of our sick and dying cities just because the corporate and financial wizards you worship have backed themselves into a corner.

Posted by: mport84 | October 8, 2010 6:11 AM | Report abuse

To completely debunk the myth that Americans lack science and technology skills or education, one only needs to look at the 2009 Census American Community Survey:

Education — Science and Technology

* A new question in the 2009 American Community Survey asked respondents with bachelor's degrees about their undergraduate major:

* The estimated number of people in the United States 25 and over with a bachelor's degree or higher was 56.3 million. Of this group, 20.5 million, or 36.4 percent, held at least one science and engineering degree.

* The percentages of all bachelor's degrees in the science and engineering fields were 28 percent or less in Mississippi, North Dakota and Puerto Rico, and as high as 51 percent in the District of Columbia.

Get that? There are 20.5 million Americans already with the educational background for jobs in anything technology related.

Never let that bunk of a skills shortage droning press mantra go unchallenged. It's pure fiction, created by our global labor arbitrage corporate lobby, demanding to offshore outsourcing jobs and technology as fast as they can.

Posted by: Vincenzo1 | October 8, 2010 6:15 AM | Report abuse

Some people have posted that graduates of engineering schools aren't having trouble finding jobs. That is true, especially for the top schools. But look to see what happens to those graduates 15 or 20 years down the road. That is where the problem lies. At that stage, people have to go into management in order to maintain a career trajectory - but most engineers do not have the skills or interest for management. Worse yet, a person at that level is now relatively overpaid (for a tech person, not compared to a lawyer or manager) and is now a target for outsourcing. And now suddenly that person is out on the job market, competing with all those new engineering school grads who make far less and know the technology acronyms-du-jour.

Posted by: bkmny | October 8, 2010 6:18 AM | Report abuse

"Some people have posted that graduates of engineering schools aren't having trouble finding jobs. That is true, especially for the top schools. But look to see what happens to those graduates 15 or 20 years down the road. That is where the problem lies. At that stage, people have to go into management in order to maintain a career trajectory - but most engineers do not have the skills or interest for management..."

This is simply wrong. The large majority of scientists and engineers certainly DO have the skills and interest to go into the administration and management of technical work after 10-15 years because it means more money in their pocket and more POWER to determine/influence the work of those under them and others who work with them.

Don't ever think that scientists and engineers in their 20's can't widen their horizons in the their 30's and 40's. They can and they do.

Posted by: fairfaxvaguy | October 8, 2010 6:54 AM | Report abuse

A recent graduate with a law degree or MBA might make a lot more than a PHD grad but I believe there are positive externalities that are not incorporated into the PHD grad's salary. A lawyer works a case and immediately after the end gets paid handsomely by their corporate client. A particular scientist may work to discover a new element. Another scientist discovers properties about that new element. Another engineer may use that new element to make a new electronics device. Further engineers use those devices to make a new supercomputer, etc. The best scientists and engineers can't be motivated by money alone. They have to appreciate the fact they are furthering the advancement of human civilization.

Posted by: carbon916 | October 8, 2010 10:20 AM | Report abuse

I don't think it's about pay -- not for kids. It's about excitement.

One of the kids I tutor -- 5th grade when I met him, 7th grade now -- is fascinated by haptics. I brought in an issue of Scientific American and asked each of them to find something they wanted to explore that evening and haptics won.

Will he go on to get a degree in it? Maybe, maybe not. But his math grades have gone up because he's interested not just in some amorphous "science" but in a specific application.

I think our computer geekery went up in the 60s and 70s (and down afterward) because we had a space program, a central focus. Let's talk about mag-lev trains, colonizing Mars or Ganymede, or, my favorite, underwater living spaces. Give us something to make science and computers and math exciting again.

Posted by: Fabrisse | October 8, 2010 10:40 AM | Report abuse

It's interesting to see people claiming there are no jobs in STEM fields. In this age it is highly unfortunate that unreliable information is passed on as fact when it is false. Here are some actual facts (from the American Institute of Physics site, www.aip.org).

Facts:
- The highest starting salaries for all college graduates with just a bachelors degree are in STEM fields
(reference: http://www.aip.org/statistics/trends/reports/fall09a.pdf)
- Most people with Physics degrees work in the private sector in a STEM field, and average starting salaries in the private sector for Masters degree recipients are over $60,000/ yr. and those with PhD's are over $80,000/yr. (http://www.aip.org/statistics/trends/highlite/emp4/figure3.htm)
- 93% of Physics masters recipients working in the private sector worked in a STEM field. http://www.aip.org/statistics/trends/highlite/emp4/emphigh.htm)
- To see who is hiring people with Physics bachelors degrees, see http://www.aip.org/statistics/trends/states/state.html
- The unemployment for people with degrees in physics is typically about 40% of what it is for people from all backgrounds.

Hiring of foreign workers in STEM fields with H1-B visas is an issue, but should not deter one from pursuing the advantages securing a degree in the STEM fields can provide you.

Posted by: edwinhhall | October 8, 2010 10:47 AM | Report abuse

There sure seems to be a lot of grossly uniformed comments by people who are not
1) Scientists, engineers, or mathematicians
2) Teachers

I have degrees in physics, electrical engineering, and computer science, so I know of what I speak.

Regarding compensation, senior computer scientists make over $130K a year.

Regarding outsourcing jobs, sure that is going on in all sectors of the economy. But I can find a job anywhere, anytime. We cannot find qualified technical people to fill our needs. Without forgeign talent this country would be screwed. Immagrants are responsible for a HUGE portion of techical start ups.

Regarding "dated" technical skill sets, anybody in ANY careeer field who does not continuously update their skill sets are fools. Collegee teaches you to learn. Professionals keep abreast of their professions.

Regarding lack of interest of careers in science, the answer to that is quite simple. IT IS HARD. Most people are not up to the callenge. Most people do not have role models that are in science or engineering. Most people seek the least path of resistance in life.

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Posted by: pisatrade0 | October 8, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Senior computer scientists with advanced degrees make around 150K in the New York City area - unless they go into management which many do not want to do because they would have to leave the technical world. In contrast, lawyers and i-bankers with graduate degrees make far more than that in New York. I know many lawyers who are making 300K or more, and of course, the sky is the limit for people in banking.

I am a computer scientist, by the way, and worked in industry for many years. I am now in higher ed, and listen to students all the time tell me why, although they loved my Intro to CS course, they will not be majoring in computer science. We mainly compete with finance and pre-law for students.

Posted by: bkmny | October 8, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

I do agree STEM are grossly under paid for their contributions. Just think what the lawyers, bankers, entertainers, etc will be doing today if farm tracters were never invented, or cars were never invented, or building technologies were never invented. They would have starved to death long ago, and the rest of the population will be working 18 hr days digging dirt in the field, and milking cows by hand.

Posted by: AT_MD | October 8, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Such jobs pay REALLY well in my experience - high five figures for starters. Know that for a fact. My son grabbed one a few years out of college.
The job opportunites for STEM type U.S. citizens aren't as gloomy as some would pretend.
Posted by: fairfaxvaguy
...................
Government work pays $65,000 for someone out of school with a degree in the computer sciences.

Until the offshoring began in 2001 enrollments of Americans in the computer sciences were growing every year. Now they are down to 1996 levels.

Given the world dominance of Americans in the field in 2000 there should be hundreds of thousands of Americans that want to study in the field.

Besides the President and others are claiming that these jobs are so important for our future economy but this makes no sense when the only jobs for new graduates is government jobs.

There are still jobs for those who have studied Latin. The President and others are not claiming that the study of Latin is important for our future economy.

The reality is that if a large number of Americans suddenly switched to these fields upon graduation they would find themselves without jobs.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 8, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Outsourcing is certainly an issue, but nothing so large as people seem to claim. We have folks pounding on our doors to recruit our students. I'm in my own little Ivory Tower, but I've seen what bad job situations look like. We were there 2 years ago. We're doing pretty well right now...

Posted by: bobtom222
............................
I am amazed.

This is not a bad job situation but a business plan to send every entry level American job in these fields to cheap foreign labor.

You need at least 5 years to gain the necessary expertise in these fields for the better paying jobs.

Even teachers know that years are needed after college to obtain expertise and experience.

The only reason you have jobs for your students is because American enrollments in these fields are lower.

No one calls a field growing when Americans will not enroll since they know that many of the American jobs will be offshored to cheap foreign labor.

As for the supposedly top students in a field, how many of these top level Americans would have enrolled in these fields if they had the imagination to think that suddenly over night American companies would not only be offshoring the entry level jobs but all of the jobs that called for the top level students.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 8, 2010 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Regarding outsourcing jobs, sure that is going on in all sectors of the economy. But I can find a job anywhere, anytime. We cannot find qualified technical people to fill our needs.

Posted by: kschur1
...................
Whoopee do I can find job anytime I want.

But I have many years of experience in the field.

In 2003 I could not find a job in my field for 3 years since I did not want to leave N.J. and not see my daughter. I almost took a job that involved being in Iraq for three months out of every year.

I could have easily obtained a job if I simply ignored the needs of my daughter.

If you are really intelligent start thinking of the current job market where there are almost no jobs for Americans with new degrees in these fields. The only jobs for these Americans are government jobs.

Enrollments of Americans have dropped and will continue to drop when the business plan is to give these American jobs to cheap foreign labor.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 8, 2010 12:50 PM | Report abuse

I am now in higher ed, and listen to students all the time tell me why, although they loved my Intro to CS course, they will not be majoring in computer science. We mainly compete with finance and pre-law for students.

Posted by: bkmny
......................
Your students have still not caught on.

The jobs for graduates in the law are already being offshored and many students are finding they only jobs they can obtain are government jobs.

As for finance it should be obvious that these jobs are ideal candidates for offshoring.

The House Committee on Science and Technology June 12, 2007

As Dr. Alan Blinder, one of today’s witnesses testified, these examples seem to be only the tip of the iceberg. Dr. Blinder has estimated that more than one in four American jobs are vulnerable to offshoring. More striking is his finding that most American technical jobs in the sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields are amongst the most vulnerable to offshoring.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 8, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

"Foreign students pay more than Americans at our colleges and universities."

Where did I say otherwise? Just because they pay more than Americans doesn't mean they pay enough to make it genuinely expensive.

Center for Immigration Studies does a lot of work on this:

http://www.cis.org/foreign_students.html

http://www.cis.org/uc-bonus

The second article points out that the UC system gets $15K more from the federal government for each foreign student than it does from US students.

Posted by: Cal_Lanier | October 8, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse

BAN ALL FOREIGN STUDENTS AT AMERICAN COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES.

I am not against foreign students but this might be the only way for Americans to finally understand the problem.

No foreign students in the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics and over half the faculty, if not more, in colleges and universities would become redundant.

The problem is not foreign students but that Americans will not enroll in fields where there are no jobs for Americans.

Americans did not suddenly become dumb in 2001. The enrollments since 2001 in these fields dropped because 2001 was the start of offshoring of American jobs in these fields.

American need to start drawing the dots when the President and other speaks of there only being non exportable jobs for Americans.

Almost all of the jobs in the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics are exportable to cheap foreign labor.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 8, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

The Chinese must be laughing themselves sick.

While the Chinese prize gaining and obtaining expertise the United States allows American companies to simply freely give it away. It even pays the citizens of foreign countries to accept this free gift of expertise.

American companies pay foreign workers to gain expertise that can not be obtained at universities and colleges. They are paid to work on complex computer systems and/or paid to work with the latest expensive computer technology or scientific equipment available.

No college or university has students doing work with real live complex computer systems, and at most there is only limited availability of the latest expensive computer technology or scientific equipment.

Daily we give free expertise to citizens of foreign nations, as we destroy the fields of the 21th century for Americans.

And our government sits by with the pretense that Americans will enroll in these fields when there are and will be no jobs for Americans because American companies have decided to freely give the expertise to cheap foreign labor.

The Chinese must really be laughing themselves sick.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 8, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Why not allow American companies to simply offshore the American jobs in weapons developments?

Why pay Americans to do this work when it would be so cheaper to send this work to cheap foreign workers?

Is this not free markets and free trade?

Since we already allow American companies to pay citizens of foreign countries to obtain expertise in all the fields of the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics, why not follow suit in weapons technology?

Why deny American companies the opportunity of obtaining cheap foreign labor in weapons technology?

Posted by: bsallamack | October 8, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Why are Americans so unwilling to accept reality?

Why can not Americans simply accept the reality that it makes no sense to educate Americans in the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics, when Americans have accepted that all American jobs in these fields should go to cheap foreign labor instead of Americans.

In a number of years the cheap foreign labor that obtained American jobs because of free degrees paid for by foreign governments will develop enough expertise for the middle and upper level American jobs in these fields.

Americans should recognize reality and see there is no need any longer for educating Americans in these fields.

Accept the reality that Americans simply can not compete in fields where American companies can find foreign workers with college degrees that will accept $4.87 per hour to do work for American companies.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 8, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

bobtom222,

Of your engineering graduates, what is the percentage of US citizens? And of those that are not citizens, how many return to their home country vs. obtain sponsorship from a US company to work in America?

Thanks.

Posted by: shadwell1 | October 8, 2010 2:38 PM | Report abuse

This article and the subsequent posts highlight the problem with fine arts majors commenting on science and engineering: they have no clue what they're talking about and they don't even know it.

Do you know why you don't hire a vegetarian to run a meat packing plant? Because they don't know what the final product is supposed to taste like. The analogy works with all the fine arts majors who take the required minimum coursework and then think they can teach math and science. You also can't hire an effective math and science teacher at a history graduates salary. You get what you pay for in education.

4 years in MCPS, 4 years at a large STATE engineering school, starting salary in my field of $58k, current salary after 10 years $131k. There's no problem with engineering in the US unless you're an end of career professional. There are loads of opportunities to start new companies every single day with nothing more than you learn as an undergraduate.

The problems with high school math/science education are many but:

1) If you can't teach English without books, then why would you try to teach math without a shop class, a music composition class or some kind of a lab class?

2) If you could teach math effectively AND inspirationally without having worked in a technical field, then you should be able to teach English and history having never read a newspaper or a book. Sound absurd? It is.

3) You can probably train a few dozen cats to do dog tricks, but it's cheaper, faster and easier to just find a few dogs. Stop hiring cats and thinking you can train them with continuing education incentives.

There are people who want to help. There are people who take their evenings off to help tutor kids to make up for the trash that passes as math and science teachers today. No one's signing up to be a martyr though. Until schools make discipline the #1 priority, math/science teachers are paid competitively FOR THEIR PROFESSION, and until we stop putting up unnecessary barriers to entry, we will never have a workforce inspired and educated that can sustain this country.

Posted by: FormerMCPSStudent | October 8, 2010 3:55 PM | Report abuse

bobtom222,
Of your engineering graduates, what is the percentage of US citizens? And of those that are not citizens, how many return to their home country vs. obtain sponsorship from a US company to work in America?

Thanks.

Posted by: shadwell1
.......................
It would be good for bobtom222 to tell you the field that he teaches and also the name of the schools.

It is easy to claim anything in a comment.

The information I posted regarding "The House Committee on Science and Technology June 12, 2007" can be viewed by a search for the above phrase.

I love how everyone gives their little story that there is no problem while experts before congressional committees indicate the reality.

So if I know 15 Americans that got jobs supposedly there are not over 1 million foreign workers working on visas in the United States in jobs that 1 million more Americans could be working at if they did not feel that so many more fields of study are not for Americans.

This country has always believed if there were jobs Americans would train to fill them. There should be no surprise when Americans see that jobs of certain fields of study are no longer for Americans, they enroll in other fields.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 8, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse

bsallamack- Are you saying that the enrollment of Americans dropped after 2001 or all enrollment. It is well established that the enrollment rate of STEM graduate programs dropped after the US imposed very strict immigration standards and foreign students were kept out of the country. The enrollments then decreased. If you are claiming that the number of Americans decreased, please cite the statistics.

I'm so surprised posters are claiming there are no jobs in these fields. It's simply not true. One place that is especially true is in the top secret areas. Anyone wanting to work at NSA or other government/military agencies requiring a clearance must be a citizen. Those jobs pay nicely and is very focused on STEM issues. The private sector is rife with contractors who work on government projects. In order to use H1Bs, they have to publicly advertise for the position and try to find an American first. When the job goes unfilled, then they are able to bring someone in on an H1B. That's not to say that people aren't lazy about meeting requirements. Yet to leap and say that ALL STEM jobs are being outsourced is patently false. These jobs will be around for a long time and will provide a middle class lifestyle. I hope young people aren't buying into the fear mongering that they'll have to live out of their car and eat canned beans everyday because their STEM job only pays 65K a year. It's the people with these attitudes that are really keeping college students away from these fields, not the "lack" of jobs or money.

Posted by: lafilleverte | October 8, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse

4 years in MCPS, 4 years at a large STATE engineering school, starting salary in my field of $58k, current salary after 10 years $131k. There's no problem with engineering in the US unless you're an end of career professional. There are loads of opportunities to start new companies every single day with nothing more than you learn as an undergraduate.
Posted by: FormerMCPSStudent
..........................
What is this wonderful engineering field that you speak of. You get a degree in a field such as computer sciences, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, or civil engineering.

If you have a degree in the computer sciences you probably have a job with a government contractor. The figures you give of $58k and $131k are close to government contract figures for software developers.

And since you are so knowledgeable why not tell us how the new graduates get off of the government trough and get a job with an American companies that use cheap foreign workers here on visas and offshore foreign workers at $4.87 per hour.

By the way look at the internet listing since none of these are for those with new degrees and require at least 5 years of experience.

Also try and get a loan from a bank to start a business with a new degree. I doubt you will get a loan but they might give you a toaster.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 8, 2010 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: lafilleverte
.....................
Computer Science Course Enrollment Dips in U.S.
The number of students enrolled in computer science programs is at its lowest in at least a decade.

"Comp Sci" was one of the hottest majors during the dot-com boom of the late '90s, but the numbers dropped after the bust of 2001.

Now, despite a strong market for IT professionals and a resurgence in Web millionaires, college students just aren't interested in studying computing.
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=88154024
......................

Below from report of loss of foreign students. U.S. science and engineering.

First-time, full-time S&E graduate enrollment of U.S. citizens and permanent residents declined 1 percent between 2003 and 2004, the first such drop since 2000, when collection of these data began.

http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/infbrief/nsf06321/

For some strange reason the government does not track the number of Americans entering these fields to obtain a bachelor in sciences or engineering. Graduate school figures are not helpful since there is at least a four year lag in these figures and you may have those returning to school. It is more important to see the figures for college enrollments.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 8, 2010 4:57 PM | Report abuse

I'm so surprised posters are claiming there are no jobs in these fields. It's simply not true. One place that is especially true is in the top secret areas. Anyone wanting to work at NSA or other government/military agencies requiring a clearance must be a citizen. Those jobs pay nicely and is very focused on STEM issues.
........................
You do not have a healthy field when there are only government jobs.

Besides in 2003 the government simply stopped hiring and let go workers on contracts in the Department of Defense because of the invasion of Iraq. Most of these jobs are not government jobs but simply jobs through contractors.

And forget about Secret or Top Clearance work if you do not have one. Large and small contractors clearly specify on job posting to not even apply if you do not have one since they are not willing to pay the expense of obtaining one.

Years ago after graduation from college I decided to study the computer sciences. This has been interesting and rewarding work. But if the situation was that of today where American jobs are simply offshored to a cheap foreign worker at $4.78 per hour I would never have entered the field. I entered the field because there were jobs. In reality mathematics was a more interesting field of study.

Besides the reality is that with only government jobs for Americans if you convinced a large number of Americans to enroll you would simply find a large number of Americans with a degree in these fields unemployed.

Instead of innovation and benefits from the STEM fields Americans should think in terms of innovation and benefits from the study of Latin.

The Chinese tried years ago to cherry pick in education and that was a failure.

The Chinese are blazing full throttle in STEM.

America policy is really to cherry pick in STEM with the identification at an early age of those gifted in the STEM fields. All these Americans will get their PHD. Unfortunately this is no better than inbreeding and you usually wind up with well educated individuals with mediocre and common place ideas. Athletes can be cherry picked since you are dealing with muscle memory. Once you are dealing with the brain it is a whole different ballgame.

We led the world in computer technology in 2000. It was not from cherry picking but a blazing full throttle approach in the computer sciences, mathematics, and electrical engineering.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 8, 2010 5:26 PM | Report abuse

I hope young people aren't buying into the fear mongering that they'll have to live out of their car and eat canned beans everyday because their STEM job only pays 65K a year. It's the people with these attitudes that are really keeping college students away from these fields, not the "lack" of jobs or money.

Posted by: lafilleverte
............................
Yes they should buy into the fairy tale that American companies should be allowed to replace college educated Americans with cheap foreign labor at $4.78 per hour and that this is good for our nation.

Yes spend $50,000 to $100,000 for education in a field with only government jobs through contractors. Do not think that if more Americans enroll in a field with a limited number of jobs that very quickly those jobs will be filled?

Also simply ignore that the Department of Defense is now announcing cutbacks.

Gamble and maybe you will be lucky.

Hey it is only 4 years and $50,000 to $100,000.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 8, 2010 5:51 PM | Report abuse

Another thing keeping high school students from becoming fascinated by science is the presence in science classes of students who are fascinated by something else. This is also why there is not more support for science and technological education. Those of us who knew we would never go into science sat in class beside the ones who did, and the class slowed down to accommodate us. Meantime, we learned very little of the science we did need to make informed decisions or of the importance of science in the world.

My college offered a "dumbed down" biology class for non-majors, focusing on the effects of biological processes on other living beings and the environment and teaching basic human biology so we understood the effects of toxins on pregnant women and so on. The college offered courses for biology majors that included material the rest of us would never encounter in our everyday life. Similarly, the history department offered survey courses for non-majors, and allowed to majors to debate the election of 1877 to our hearts' content.

High schools have to quit trying to turn each student into an expert in every subject. Let the ones who want to be expert get on with it and teach the rest of us what we need to know to decide whether our science-crazy teenager has a good science teacher or not.

Posted by: sideswiththekids | October 8, 2010 7:48 PM | Report abuse

This is mind boggling. What all you guys are saying is that because STEM are being offshore, we shouldn't study it. Well guess what, EVERY job can be offshored, so what you will have is the libral's uptopia, everyone should just sit on the hands and wait for the government cheque. I am sure that will work. There are no jobs for libral art majors ANYWHERE in the world, I don't see anyone saying music, art, pysc, english, history education should be removed, the exact opposite is happening, parents are DEMANDING these useless easy classes, because than, their kid can get good grades and they can feel good. Get with it, start leaning real stuff so America can be competive again.

Posted by: AT_MD | October 8, 2010 7:50 PM | Report abuse

What is "psychometrics"?

Posted by: smi2le | October 8, 2010 9:21 PM | Report abuse

This is mind boggling. What all you guys are saying is that because STEM are being offshore, we shouldn't study it.

Get with it, start leaning real stuff so America can be competive again.

Posted by: AT_MD
.................
No I am saying that those who believe the politicians who claim our economy is dependent upon STEM are those who are willing to believe in Santa Claus.

The reality is our schools do not have to emphasize these fields since they are no longer important to our economy. Our government has decided to accept that the dominance we held in these fields in 2000 is not worth preventing American companies from destroy the interests of America in these fields.

Emphasis in these fields in high school is not going to convince Americans to enroll in these fields when there are no jobs for Americans.

American students in the colleges and universities already know these fields are not for Americans and this is clear from the low enrollment in these fields.

In 1957 President Eisenhower wanted policies to have more Americans educated in the sciences and engineering.

At the time everyone would have thought President Eisenhower was a fool if he accepted at that time that the jobs in science and engineering were not for Americans.

Either stop American companies from giving the American jobs in these fields to cheap foreign labor or accept that these fields are no longer of importance for education in the United States.

As for AT_MD who wants Americans to "start leaning real stuff so America can be competive again" maybe he should tell us what this real stuff is, since it no longer is the STEM fields.

Perhaps AT_MD should remember that so far those who are willing to allow American companies to destroy our dominance in STEM have only spoken of the non-exportable jobs that will be for Americans but so far have not defined these jobs.

Hopefully we will hear from AT_MD with his job list for Americans and the fields they should study for these jobs.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 8, 2010 10:10 PM | Report abuse

All of these comments seem to assume that the schools can "make" more scientists and engineers. We've been down this road before; after Sputnik was launched, America was so horrified that the "godless Commies" were ahead of us in space that there was an attempt to revamp the school curriculum to catch up. By the time I reached high school a few years later, the assumption, at least in my school, was that if you got good grades you should take a lot of science and math--even if you got those good grades by avoiding as much science and math as possible. My high school science and math classes assumed that all of us needed to be prepared for majoring in science or math in college. This attitude also led to the "new math." Students were supposed to work a lot of problems that would lead them to discover mathematical principles on their own. Finally, after years of confusion, studies revealed that students showing a strong aptitude for math loved the new math and were making great progress, and those of us with aptitudes for mechanical areas or languages were still counting on our fingers.

We can do a lot in the schools make sure that every student with an interest in science gets a chance to study it, and maybe even create more interest with some good elementary programs. (Mine consisted of reading the book and answering the questions; we had one teacher who openly opposed the space program on religious grounds.)

But the best way to produce scientists is to stop trying so hard to turn all students into scientists. Offer advanced courses for high school students who are interested, where they don't have to be slowed down by non-majors. Teach the rest of us what we need to know to avoid blowing ourselves up with improperly cleaning supplies and to interpret statistics and news stories properly.

I realize if a teacher genuinely likes and knows the subject, it's difficult to deal with a student who dislikes the subject--but the simple face is that all students have favorite subjects and disliked subjects. I wish I had learned more useful science and math instead of having to study--and being expected to be as expert in--the same material as my friends who intended to be doctors or engineers.

Posted by: sideswiththekids | October 9, 2010 9:11 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: sideswiththekids
............................
In 1957 America was quite advanced in the sciences. President Eisenhower wanted to add to that strength and help to create more Americans with skills for available jobs in the sciences. The program was mainly for colleges and universities and not directly for high schools. The program did provide funds for more teachers in the sciences in American schools.

This would have never worked if there were not jobs for Americans in these fields and there was government acceptance of American businesses excluding American from jobs in these fields by using cheap foreign labor.

NATIONAL DEFENSE EDUCATION ACT OF 1958
NDEA

The National Defense Education Act provided $887 million over four years for education that could support national security goals especially training scientists. The act contained ten titles designed to improve the nation's schools:

Title I prohibited federal control over curriculum, administration, or personnel;

Title II provided federal assistance for low-interest loans to college students ($295 million);

Title III provided financial assistance for science, mathematics, and modern foreign-language instruction ($300 million);

Title IV created National Defense Fellowships for students entering teaching fields at universities or colleges;

Title V established grants for state educational agencies for guidance testing services ($88 million);

Title VI provided support for modern foreign language programs ($15.25 million);

Title VII provided for research and experimentation in effective uses for television, radio and other audiovisual mediums for educational purposes ($18 million);

Title VIII authorized grants for occupations necessary for the national defense ($60 million);

Title IX provided for the Science Information Service in the National Science Foundation;

Title X authorized federal grants for improvement of statistical services for state educational agencies.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 9, 2010 10:20 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: sideswiththekids
............................
In 1957 America was quite advanced in the sciences. President Eisenhower wanted to add to that strength and help to create more Americans with skills for available jobs in the sciences. The program was mainly for colleges and universities and not directly for high schools. The program did provide funds for more teachers in the sciences in American schools.

This would have never worked if there were not jobs for Americans in these fields and there was government acceptance of American businesses excluding American from jobs in these fields by using cheap foreign labor.

NATIONAL DEFENSE EDUCATION ACT OF 1958
NDEA

The National Defense Education Act provided $887 million over four years for education that could support national security goals especially training scientists. The act contained ten titles designed to improve the nation's schools:

Title I prohibited federal control over curriculum, administration, or personnel;

Title II provided federal assistance for low-interest loans to college students ($295 million);

Title III provided financial assistance for science, mathematics, and modern foreign-language instruction ($300 million);

Title IV created National Defense Fellowships for students entering teaching fields at universities or colleges;

Title V established grants for state educational agencies for guidance testing services ($88 million);

Title VI provided support for modern foreign language programs ($15.25 million);

Title VII provided for research and experimentation in effective uses for television, radio and other audiovisual mediums for educational purposes ($18 million);

Title VIII authorized grants for occupations necessary for the national defense ($60 million);

Title IX provided for the Science Information Service in the National Science Foundation;

Title X authorized federal grants for improvement of statistical services for state educational agencies.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 9, 2010 10:21 AM | Report abuse

A THOUGHT FOR AMERICANS

American companies are not allowed to be considered for government contracts if they discriminate in the hiring of Americans.

Apparently if an American company decides to replace Americans in American jobs with cheap foreign labor this is not considered discrimination against Americans.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 9, 2010 10:29 AM | Report abuse

@bsallamack

Your occasional good points are drowned out by the volume of misinformation you provide. For example, you state "You do not have a healthy field when there are only government jobs." But as my referenced figures show, most, 93% of the physics graduates work in the private sector. I don't have the time to refute all your other misinformation. Stick to the one or two good points you have, quit making up the rest, do some real research on the topic, and you might then be worth listening to.

Posted by: edwinhhall | October 10, 2010 10:06 AM | Report abuse

I've got a BS in Electrical Engineering and got a job teaching after looking for Engineering work for 2 years (2004-2006).

Now I teach a STEM program, and the BIGGEST obstacle I see is that STEM things are hard. When you are dealing with a high school culture where Algebra 2 is "the end" of math, people see any course of study that requires 7+ MORE math classes is just out of the realm of possibility.

Posted by: someguy100 | October 10, 2010 5:00 PM | Report abuse

bsallamack: Thanks for the information on the NDEA--I was in grade school when Sputnik went up, and my grade school was the one where we had almost no science instruction.

All I know is my high school seemed to feel there could never be too many science and math classes, if you needed an elective class for the following year the guidance counselor would suggest another math or science course (even when I was making straight Cs in algebra I), and the principal kept recommending students for extra science seminars even if they weren't taking science that year.

Every time we asked the point of anything we were doing in science, we were told, "You'll need it when you take science in college"; the assumption was that we were all going to take lots of science classes in college. There was never any indication that knowing science or math was of any use outside of scientific fields. (My college required some science, but offered courses for non-majors that focused on the scientific knowledge we would need to evaluate health claims, figure out why the Great Plains were so flat and our own area had rolling hills, etc.)

My point is that all these comments seem to assume that exposing all students to more advanced science will produce more scientists--and in high school, at least, it will in many cases have the opposite effect. By teaching future scientists and future linguists or lawyers the same chemistry in the same classroom, you are just boring--and maybe discouraging--the future scientists and encouraging the others to believe science and math are so mystifying they should simply take the "expert's" word for it.

Posted by: sideswiththekids | October 11, 2010 10:15 AM | Report abuse

@bsallamack

Your occasional good points are drowned out by the volume of misinformation you provide. For example, you state "You do not have a healthy field when there are only government jobs."
Posted by: edwinhhall
............................
Since the business plan of American companies is to offshore every American job possible to cheap foreign labor, that only leaves government jobs in those fields.

Most of the entry level jobs after a degree in the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics are in the offshore list. That is not only my opinion but the opinion of American economists in testimony to Congressional committees.

One tires of this charade that Americans have to be persuaded to go into the STEM fields when there were plenty of Americans in these fields in 2000. Americans students did not suddenly grow dumb since 2000, they recognized that there would be no jobs for Americans in these fields so they do not want to enroll in them.

By the way I looked at the website you gave and noted that in New Jersey a bank and insurance company hired physic graduates. You might want to rethink using this an example. Imagine telling a incoming student to study physics in order to work in a bank or insurance company.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 11, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Jay,

Per your suggestion, MCPS was asked for the crucial budget data that has been withheld this year.

5 days later, no response. Looks like you are the only reporter that will be able to make this crucial budget data public. You have the inside track to MCPS data. You can make the budget data public that parents need to advocate for classes - including STEM. Looking forward to your publication of this important data.

For your readers, the Washington Area Boards of Education Guide for FY11 is a great resource of D.C. area school system enrollment and funding information. Really important information in this budget climate when classroom needs are great.

Here's the link to this year's Guide (minus Montgomery County Public Schools - MCPS refuses to play with the other counties this year and is withholding their budget data)

http://www.apsva.us/15401081151845893/lib/15401081151845893/FY2011WABE_10-6.pdf

Posted by: jzsartucci | October 12, 2010 8:24 AM | Report abuse

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