If one is to believe that a country's long-term prosperity and growth is tied to the strength of its innovation and science, the US is in increasing trouble. I fear that we will not begin to take things seriously until we are fairly down the declining path. Marc Faber presented two interesting tables from Robert Herbold (former COO, Microsoft).
BS/BA Degrees BS Engineering % Degrees
(000's) (000's) Engineering
US 1,253.0 59.5 5%
China 567.9 219.6 39%
S. Korea 209.7 56.5 27%
Taiwan 117.4 26.6 23%
Japan 542.3 104.5 19%
All four Asian countries have a 4-8x the relative number of students going into engineering and China & Japan have 4x and 2x the annual number of BS degrees in absolute terms compared to the US. Another set of figures is around Ph.D's.
Students Receiving Ph.D's in Physical Science or Engineering
1987 2001 Growth
US Citizens getting degree 4,700 4,400 (6.4%)
Asian Citizens getting 5,600 24,900 345%
We need to sound the alarm, in my opinion, and start to get our kids excited and interested in science even before middle school while also more prominently promoting scientific role models. We also need to get them engaged in science through the likes of Junior Achievement, BizWorld, the Lego First Robotics Leagues and local museums (like the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry). Funny thinking from an Econ/History major making a living in finance...