Tuesday, September 07, 2021

US Public Education Falling Behind China in STEM

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Three leading US mathematicians who came to the US  as young immigrants because they were attracted by the unmatched quality and openness of American universities are sounding the alarm as China becomes the world's STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) leader.

The reason?

United States public education prioritizes "diversity" over "merit"---China does not.

The cost of so-called "equity"---equal outcome rather than equal opportunity---is killing our nation.

As we send our kids back to the government-run classrooms we must: Be informed, not misled.

The experts begin with this: 

"All three of us are mathematicians who came to the United States as young immigrants, having been attracted by the unmatched quality and openness of American universities. We came, as many others before and after, with nothing more than a good education and a strong desire to succeed. As David Hilbert famously said, 'Mathematics knows no races or geographic boundaries; for mathematics , the cultural world is one country.' Having built our careers in US academia, we are proud to call our selves American mathematicians."

These three concerned mathematicians are Percy Deift, New York University; Svetlana Jitomirskaya, of Georgia Institute of Technology, and Sergiu Klainerman of Princeton University.

Their article is titled "As US Schools Prioritize Diversity Over Merit, China Is Becoming the World's STEM Leader." It was published in Quillette. 

They note that the US has been dominant in the mathematical sciences since the mass exodus of European scientists in the 1930s.

"US leadership in math has supplied our country with an enormous strategic advantage," they say. Continuing, they note "But for various reasons"--- three they note in their article-- they believe the US is now "at risk of losing that dominant position."

Here's why they're concerned.

First. The most obvious. The deplorable state of our K-12 math education system.

Far too few American public school children are prepared for careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). "This leaves us," they say, "increasingly dependent on a constant inflow of foreign talent, especially from mainland China, Taiwan, South Korea, and India."

They are deeply concerned about China.

They say, "In our field, mathematics, we find that at most top departments in the United States, at least two-thirds of the faculty, are foreign-born.

The second reason for concern.

These mathematicians say, "The national focus on social justice and diversity in K-12 schools" is of great concern. 

"No matter how well-intentioned...this approach creates more, not less racial discrimination."

These experts explain the irony associated with stats such as California that tout their efforts against "racist" math:

"The social -justice rhetoric used to justify these diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs is often completely at odds with the reality one observes on campuses. The concept of 'fighting white supremacy' in particular, doesn't apply in the math field since American-born scholars of all races now collectively represent a small (and diminishing) minority of the country's academic STEM specialists."

They say, "In order to achieve what they call 'equity' in math education, the framework would effectively close the main pathway to calculus in high school to all students except those who take extra math outside high school"--- which ultimately leads to putting kids in charter or private schools.

These math experts are deeply concerned about what they view as a destructive pattern even at the national level.

A failing system.

These experts also point out the fact that "our institutions such as Dr. Fauci's National Institutes of Health (NIH) and others are supplanting scientific excellence with diversity as the determining factor for eligibility in regard to prizes and other distinctions."

Observing the "constant stream of ill-advised and dumbed-down 'reforms' that have pervaded American public schools," the math scholars described them as having "served to degrade the teaching of mathematics to such an extent that it has become difficult to distinguish a student who is capable from one who is not."

About China

These expert mathematicians all express great concern about China's progress in this (and other) fields.

They say, "Young students in China are surpassing their American counterparts in math already." In the 2018 international testing of 15-year-olds in mathematics, China ranked first in proficiency while the United States ranked 25th.

The last results available from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the nation's report card, showed "no progress" in reading or mathematics over the past 10 years.

And the mathematicians who love this country give this stern warning about China: 

"It is building on the kind of accelerated, explicitly merit-based programs, centered on gifted students, that are being repudiated by American educators. Having learned its lesson from the Cultural Revolution, when science and merit based education were all but obliterated in favor of ideological indoctrination, China is now pursuing a far-sighted, long term strategy to create a world-leading corps of elite STEM experts."

And they add this: "In some strategically important fields, such as quantum computing, the country is arguably already ahead of the United States."

Some thoughts.

Oregon's Governor Kate Brown recently personified what these mathematicians are telling our country.

Last month the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board wrote that Oregon's Governor Kate Brown "Signed a bill on July 14," but didn't allow it to become public until two weeks later. The Secretary of State blamed the delay on reporting on a staffer experiencing medical issues but it's easy to see the real reason the governor didn't want to draw attention to what she had just put her name to.

The new law Brown signed suspends, until 2024, the state requirements that kids demonstrate proficiency in reading, writing, and math to graduate from high school.

The reason for the suspension?

The insanity of trying to create "equal outcome."   


The WSJ says: "The purpose of public education is to provide students with the skills they need to succeed in the world. It is a terrible disservice to issue a diploma that fools them into believing they've mastered basic skills they haven't. It is particularly cruel for the minority students who will pay the highest price when the real world confirms that their high schools have defrauded them of a real education.

A cursory look at biblical teaching on the notion of creating equal outcome shows the fallacy of it.

In Matthew 25: 14-30 Jesus tells the story of the talents. One received 5, another 2, and another person 1 talent. 

Each of us has different abilities. Each deserves an equal opportunity. In His story, Jesus noted that while they had different amounts of talents, each had an opportunity to excel. 

Although some try, it's very difficult to twist this parable into something other than what Jesus is talking about: Merit and opportunity. 

The unprofitable servant (v 30) was "cast into outer darkness" where there "shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

The Left is squandering the blessings God has bestowed on this country. The question is, "Do we biblical believers have a responsibility to act on what we know?"

The answer is "yes." To do nothing is to bury the talent.

Jesus said, "to whom much is given, much shall be required." Should a faithful servant reconsider placing their child in public education that has devolved into not much more than a cesspool of indoctrination?

Will we as citizens consider running for the local school board?  Will we engage and actually know what children are being taught---and not taught in government-run schools funded by we the people?

This is the proverbial tipping point.

Be Informed. Be Discerning Be Engaged. Be Bold. Be Prayerful.