A Strategy For Failure?

I saw this rather disturbing report on CBS News over the weekend:

With the high unemployment rate dominating the news these days, it probably comes as a big surprise to a lot of you that there are so many science and engineering positions going unfilled. The fact is, however, that this problem has been a big concern for years in the circles where such things matter, as evidenced by reports like Educating the Workforce for the Modern Electric Power System by the National Academy Of Engineering (NAE), Efforts Underway to Address Critical Shortage of Power Systems Engineers by the Trustworthy Cyber Infrastructure for the Power Grid (TCIPG), and, my personal favorite, U.S.: Too Many Financial Engineers, Not Enough Civil Engineers from Daily Finance.

Now with my having a background in electronics technology, I have a natural interest in technology related television programming. And being one who also suffers from depression, I’m drawn of course to disaster related programming as well. So it should surprise no one that it was from watching documentaries like this one from the National Geographic Channel…

That I learned that recovering from such a disaster would take a very long time because of the limited number of people with the skills required to rebuild such a badly damaged infrastructure.

Strangely enough though, according to this cool infographic I ran across on the Metousiosis blog (U.S. Education vs. The World), the problem is not simply a matter of how much money we spend on education:

[via Cool Infographics:] We’ve put together this infographic that compares the United States’ education spend and performance versus eleven countries. The U.S. is the clear leader in total annual spending, but ranks 9th in Science performance and 10th in Math.

But if it’s not how much money we spend on education that’s the problem, then the problem has to lie with what our education dollars are spent on!

Finally, in another of his excellent opinion pieces, Bob Schieffer boiled it down rather well when he described why “Education is our first line of defense.”

I want ice water.

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18 thoughts on “A Strategy For Failure?

  1. Well, admittedly, the original plan under the Nixon administration was to use robots to do all of our work so that everyone in the US could just sit around and watch television and buy shit. But that didn’t pan out because the people who make the robots screwed up and couldn’t get the damned things to walk right. Years went by, trying to teach robots to walk, and in the mean time the plan to produce large numbers of uneducated lazy consumers was a complete success. So, if you want someone to blame for the current failure, blame the robotics engineers. They have failed us. But, as Darth Vader said to Admiral Ozzel, they have failed us for the last time. Current plans to use genetically engineered human-chimp hybrids is showing significant promise. Don’t give up on the dream yet! Nixon’s plan may still become a reality.

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    • As usual my friend, you’ve managed to verbalize the real essence of the problem. Unfortunately, at the rate things are going, those labor-saving “technologies of the future” will be manufactured in India or China. Hey… wait a minute. If the Indians and the Chinese replace their work force with technology (it’s a sure bet that no one over here could afford them), then they may end up having to outsource their manufacturing to the good old U.S. of A! Could that have been our leader’s secret plan all along?!?!? 😯

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        • OMG, “tricky dick” in the 21st century?!?! He’d have a ball with the power The Patriot Act would give him – but I suspect the wikileaks phenomena would give him fits. Of course, he probably would have had a full portfolio of Weiner’s “activities” way ahead of the press! 😯

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  2. great infographic !

    I read an article recently (can’t remember where) that may have drawn upon this same data. The thrust of the article was the poor standard of student being turned out by the american education system compared to that of other countries and the mismatch between actual and perceived performance amongst US kids

    In other words, US Kids were way ahead of kids from other countries in terms of what they thought they knew when in reality they were amongst the poorest performers – they were much more self-confident than students in other countries, but it was a false self-confidence. They believed they were more intelligent, better educated, more knowledgable than kids in other countries when in actual fact their performance was amongst the poorest.

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  3. I saw a show about Finland, repeatedly out-performing the rest of the world in educational scoring. Twenty years ago, they made it a national pride movement to educate the hell out of absolutely everyone. State of the art schools, high standards, personal accountability. And now, it shows. My guess is, they begin exporting intelligence very soon. Since we can’t seem to do anything here but complain about costs, cut costs, re-fund education, re-train teachers, cut spending some more then refund it a few years later… if parents are not part of the solution, well, there’s the problem.

    Benjamin Franklin initiated publicly funded education in Philadelphia, and it became the national rage in tax spending… actually, in my view, social welfare. He grew up in a time when only those persons from monetarily-abled families got any education at all. His father had 17 children by 2 wives. He had only 3 years of school, paid for privately, and the rest of Ben’s learning was self-taught. And yet, he founded the still prestigious Philadelphia Philosophical Society. Founded the first Free Public Library. Funded and officialized the first public, trained fire department. Without intent, he created the bulk of societies tax burdens. But the idea was, anyone willing, monied or not, could get an education and expand their intelligence; farm boy to governers son. Oh, and boys only, of course.

    I once worked for McMillan McGraw-Hill, the textbook publishers, for their Educational Testing branch. Much of the State testing that occurs is really geared towards finding out how kids learn, and what they need to be taught better. But if kids are resentful of the burden of a free education, and do not connect that to personal success (I’d rather be a billionaire Rapper and wear gold chains and teeth, Dawg) thens there’s not a damn thing you can do to force it. Finland must succeed because the kids accept the new higher standards, and fufill the expectations, because that is what their peers are doing.

    I like that nuggest of information, that USA kids are not as smart as they think, but yet remain hugely confident that they are geniuses. 😉 Laffs. Tommorrow I am driving to Boston University with a friend, whose son was accepted there. He is so high on himself as a righteous intellect, performing in Knowledge Bowls and the like… yet he could not get into MIT. And when he gets to college, he’ll probably learn he’s a dime-a-dozen-student. There are self-described, arrogant little ‘Geniuses’ on every corner, around every bend in every dorm. Kids just make me sick at that age, when they think because they go to college and read a few books and aquire a portion of the knowledge created by others, that they are suddenly smarter than every adult who breathes, especially their own parents. But it’s the norm for that age group. Youthfully idealistic, factually bane.

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    • “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” That’s a phrase that I’m sure Franklin would have been familiar with, and I have no doubt that he would been greatly saddened by the way his dream has actually plated out. I hated public school so much that I started cutting in the sixth grade, and was a full-time truant through most of junior and senior high. But I loved learning so much that I spent a lot of that time reading in the public library, which allowed me to later pass the GED tests with above average scores. I think old Ben would have liked that.

      I hated public school because the emphasis seemed to be more on babysitting an unruly mob than on education, with the parents having abdicated all responsibility other than providing an income for their households. I liked college a lot better because that atmosphere seemed to be much more like that of the library, where everyone knew what they were there for and accepted their responsibility to get the job done. From what I can tell though, a lot student’s these days go to college as a way to cash in on education grants without having any real end goal in mind of what they want to achieve. 😐

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  4. Mak, I’m surprised that China was not included in any of the infographs … they are the ones we will need to compete with in the not so near future i fear …………
    Ed

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  5. The essence is exactly what is the money spent on? Obviously, not the right things. And with the latest trends in revisionism, our curricula continues to be diluted. We aren’t preparing our kids to compete, and if a crash should happen, we would not be in the front as being able to reboot the universe, so to speak. Damned shame, and so tired of these games.

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  6. You know, once in a while I insert a little html in my responses, and wouldn’t you know that I forget my end tag . . . speaking of unable to compete technologically . . .

    P.S. I really miss the old-school libraries, you know, the ones that had books?

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  7. I hate it when I make a mistake in a comment. It’d be nice if we could edit the ones we make on other people’s blogs like when can on our own.

    It’s been a really long time since I’ve been in a library, so I hope you’re just kidding about them not having real books! And though I’ve haven’t tried any of the “e-reader” devices, it’s hard for me to imagine enjoying them as much as I enjoy reading an old fashioned book. Will the damned thing even remember where I was at if the battery dies before I’m done?!?! 😯

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