"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Friday, January 06, 2006

Fanning the Fear Flame

Pushing forward from the fraudulent base established in the latest national scare document, Rising Above the Gathering Storm . . . (or as Bush is likely to call it in his upcoming State of the Union, the Augustine Report), governors around the country are pushing now for, yes, more education reform--now in science and math. We must stop the Chinese and Indian hoards from taking our economic supremacy from us. Here is a sample of the rhetoric in the Times today:
Four state education leaders said this week that they would propose other initiatives at a hearing of the State Senate's Higher Education Committee on Monday. "The challenge this country has always met before is innovation," said Senator Kenneth P. LaValle, the Long Island Republican who is the committee's chairman. "But India and China are going to take it away from us."
For a less hysterical appraisal of the situation, do see this report (pdf) just released by Duke University's Engineering Program. Here is part of the abstract:
"The effect of the dynamics of engineering outsourcing on the global economy is a discussion of keen interest in both business and public circles. Varying, inconsistent reporting of problematic engineering graduation data has been used to fuel fears that America is losing its technological edge. Typical articles have stated that in 2004 the United States graduated roughly 70,000 undergraduate engineers, while China graduated 600,000 and India 350,000.

Our study has determined that these are inappropriate comparisons. These massive numbers of Indian and Chinese engineering graduates include not only four-yeardegrees, but also three-year training programs and diploma holders. These numbers have been compared against the annual production of accredited four-year engineering degrees in the United States. In addition to the lack of nuanced analysis around the type of graduates (transactional or dynamic) and quality of degrees being awarded, these articles also tend not to ground the numbers in the larger demographics of each country. A comparison of like-to-like data suggests that the U.S. produces a highly significant number of engineers, computer scientists and information technology specialists, and remains competitive in global markets."

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