Heads up, Chicken Little

Is America's growing concern about falling behind internationally in science and math instruction inadvertently driving aspiring engineers and doctors out of the field? According to a new report from Duke University, the answer is yes. Vivek Wadhwa, a software entrepreneur and the report's co-author, posits that the U.S. is really not too far behind China and India in math and science education. "When all the politicians and everyone else is [sic] going around saying it will be 70,000 of us against 1 million from China and India," says Wadhwa, "any smart high school student would question why I should get into engineering when my job is going to be outsourced." While Gadfly doubts that the typical 17-year-old math whiz, suddenly made aware of international competition and outsourcing, will run screaming to the university philosophy or comp lit department, it is useful to keep things in perspective. The sky may not be falling, yet, but few doubt that American students deserve more rigorous math and science instruction than they now receive (see here). If we continue allowing dismal science and math instruction to flourish, even the effervescent Wadhwa may have a more dour tone in the years ahead.

"Study Sees U.S. as Competitive in Math and Science," by Vaishali Honawar, Education Week, December 16, 2005 (subscription required)