Episode 4 – The Science Education Myth

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Vivek Wadhwa

Vivek Wadhwa

This week we talk with Vivek Wadhwa, columnist for Business Week, Wertheim Fellow at the Harvard Law School and executive in residence at Duke University. Wadhwa will be discussing his recent article (The Science Education Myth) regarding science education in the United States.

Preview from the show:

“It’s commonly accepted that the U.S. is falling behind other countries because our children score badly on math and science test scores and so on. The National Academies has sited this data; the President alluded to it in his last State of the Union address in 2006, the U.S. Department of Education talks about it. Everyone seems to accept the fact that the U.S. is falling behind and there is something wrong with our education system…I had a suspicion this was wrong.”

“We actually added up the numbers, and we found that the U.S. graduates a comparable number [engineers] to India, and the Chinese numbers are bogus. Basically they’re published from the Chinese government and you can’t challenge it; the Chinese numbers are high, but there are huge quality issues in both India and China.”

“The U.S is in pretty good shape. Maybe there are a few small nations, like Latvia and Singapore that come in first place, but those are small countries and you can’t compare a population of the size and the diversity of the U.S.A. with countries like Singapore, which are small and have a different system than we do.”

“Almost every indicator that they looked at showed the same trend – that the U.S.A. was improving; it wasn’t getting worse. And that no other country in the world was improving like the U.S.A. was.”

“If you look at what spurred the sciences, it was Sputnik. The Manhattan project employed 100-200,000 engineers. Whenever there’s been a crisis, the U.S. has responded to it by putting together national programs. The fact is that global warming is a critical national program. The fact that we’re consuming oil and burning up the world is a critical threat to the U.S.A. There are so many diseases that need to be eradicated. Instead of spending another 100 billion dollars on Iraq, why don’t we take 100 billion dollars and spend it on doing constructive research on eliminating diseases, of improving the world.”

“I think the U.S. really has to get its act together. We have to create the demand for engineers and scientists, and create the excitement, and create the motivation for our students to move into these fields. Just graduating more doesn’t solve any it just creates unemployment. But create a demand, create an excitement, is how you solve one of the problems.”

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Direct download: nsta_lol4.mp3

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