How America Lost Its Scientific Edge and How to Get It Back

Chance Layton

Writing for Minding the Campus, NAS member Edward Dougherty covers the ‘brain drain’ of American STEM students. He notes that the majority of STEM students, particularly those in doctoral studies, are foreign-born. This, he explains is the result of heavy recruiting of foreign students, while American students opt-out. How do we revitalize the study of STEM among American students? Professor Dougherty suggests:

“Today, education must be completely revamped from the bottom up. An iron hand is needed to clean out the education establishment and replace it with people with the knowledge and ability to institute no-nonsense policies. [. . .] I would add that students scoring in the 98th percentile on a national mathematics exam prepared by real mathematicians, physicists, and engineers (not people with education degrees) should be guaranteed a college scholarship, including full tuition and living expenses – assuming that they major in mathematics, engineering, or hard science. Surely the national interest is served as well by excellent science and engineering students as by football players.”

Surely enough, one would think. Professor Dougherty doesn’t forget the social sciences in his solution either, noting:

Part of cleaning up the mess in undergraduate mathematics and science education is cleaning up the mess in philosophy and history.  Restoration of science education would entail a restoration of serious liberal arts education.

This is a worthy endeavor. Perhaps at some point, education policy will attempt to focus on education as a national good rather than another product for consumption.

Read the full article here.  

Edward R. Dougherty is an American mathematician, electrical engineer, Robert M. Kennedy '26 Chair, and Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering at Texas A&M University. He is also the Scientific Director of the Center for Bioinformatics and Genomic Systems Engineering.


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