Planning, according to the American author Alan Lakein, involves “bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” If you want to buy a new house in five years, it helps to start saving today. To have a thriving economy going forward, it helps to have well-trained, highly skilled graduates. That’s good news for China.
In August, the Center for Security and Emerging Technology, a think tank based in Washington, published a rather telling report. When it comes to the production of STEM doctoral graduates, China is fast outpacing the United States, the authors noted.
For the uninitiated, STEM refers to the “integrated teaching and learning” of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. In other words, it involves a deep understanding of the very subjects that make our lives possible and the very subjects that are vital for the progression of humanity. Since the “mid-2000s, China has consistently graduated more STEM PhDs than the United States, a key indicator of a country’s future competitiveness in STEM fields,” according to the report.
The gap between China and the United States, we’re told, “will likely grow wider in the next five years.” Chinese universities, once known for rampant plagiarism and questionable teaching practices, are most definitely improving. The authors’ findings “suggest the quality of doctoral education in China has risen in recent years, and that much of China’s current Ph.D. growth comes from high-quality universities.”
If current enrollment patterns continue on that current trajectory, the authors project that “by 2025 Chinese universities will produce more than 77,000 STEM PhD graduates per year compared to approximately 40,000 in the United States.” With more than “three-quarters of Chinese doctoral graduates” specializing in STEM fields, China’s “robust” education system threatens to undermine the “long-term economic and national security” of the United States.
Why is this report important, and why is it a must-read for the Biden administration?
From cancer-detecting software to virus protection software, drone strikes to drone deliveries, space travel to air travel, modern society is inextricably linked with STEM subjects. This isn’t good news for the United States, where a precipitous drop in educational standards can be seen in elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, and elite universities.
A number of American educators consider math to be inherently racist. Some people argue that math needs to confront its “white, patriarchal past.” What does this even mean? Empiricism has become the bête noire of many a leftist. Science isn’t racist. Although science can be carried out by racists, it’s important to make the distinction. A car can be driven by a xenophobe, but we don’t call the car xenophobic.
To continue that brief exercise in stating the obvious, math isn’t racist. Without math, nothing is possible. More importantly, no one gets paid. Regardless of a person’s skin color, we all benefit from math. In a recent piece for Quillette, the authors—three mathematicians “who came to the United States as young immigrants”—describe the ways in which “the nationwide effort to reduce racial disparities, however well-intentioned” only serves to weaken “the connection between merit and scholastic admission.” When everything, including math and science, is viewed through the prism of race, the country suffers.
The trio lamented “the deplorable state” of the K–12 “math education system.” A pitiful number of U.S. public-school children, they argued, are prepared for careers in STEM. Not surprisingly, that leaves the United States all too “dependent on a constant inflow of foreign talent, especially from mainland China, Taiwan, South Korea, and India,” according to the report. As “curricula increasingly shift from actual mathematics knowledge to courses about social justice and identity politics,” expect that trend to continue.
The United States is home to a number of outstanding universities. However, it’s of little use having such extraordinary establishments if they aren’t being used to breed extraordinary minds. If the United States is to have any chance of competing with China, serious changes are needed, and they’re needed fast.
Sadly, the only changes we’re seeing are harmful ones. If in doubt, let me point you to Oregon. Gov. Kate Brown recently signed Senate Bill 744 into law. For the next five years, all Oregonian high school students who wish to graduate will be exempt from having to demonstrate proficiency in the areas of reading, writing, and mathematics. The bill, according to reports, was introduced in order to help “Oregon’s Black, Latino, Latina, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, Pacific Islander, Tribal, and students of color.” One wonders how dumbing down graduation requirements helps anyone.
Many progressive-minded educators are determined to “reimagine” the way subjects such as math and science are taught in schools. But they don’t need to be “reimagined.” They need to be left alone, and they need to be taught properly. The United States is currently ranked 31st in math literacy out of 79 countries. China ranks first in mathematical proficiency.
Now, with the average IQ of U.S. children continuing to fall and the dumbing down of education in full swing, expect the proficiency gap to widen. Without enough STEM graduates, how is the United States expected to compete with China? This is an important question that requires immediate answers.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.