It's About the Money, Stupid

More

math class 2.jpgContrary to what we're so often told, American students are not bad at math and science.The John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development published a study not long ago that concluded that, contrary to fears expressed by educators and potential employers, American students have not wavered in their interest in science and math over the past 30 years. But, the study also found that many of the highest performing students were choosing non-science and math careers, the reason being, of course, a lack of opportunity and growth in those fields.

Basic economics tells us that human beings tend to follow the money. In the late 1990s, the dot com boom sent many very smart and hard working youngsters in the direction of computer science--at MIT, the famous "Course 6" (electrical engineering and computer science) was the hottest offering on campus. And MIT was not alone--enrollments soared in programs across the country. But with the post dot com bomb climate for computer geeks not nearly as sunny,  these ultra-smart and eager hordes are looking elsewhere.  

Whining and hand wringing over the state of science and math education in this country will have little impact if the jobs for scientists, engineers and mathematicians remain so uncertain, and so readily outsourced or filled by visa holders from abroad. Young Americans are not nearly so lazy or stupid as many pundits make them out to be--the best and the brightest will turn to math and science only if and when it pays to do so. 

Photo Credit: Flickr User woodleywonderworks

Jump to comments
Presented by

Ellen Ruppel Shell is a professor and science journalist who teaches at Boston University. She is the author most recently of Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture. More

Atlantic contributing editor Ellen Ruppel Shell teaches at Boston University, where she co-directs the Graduate Program in Science Journalism. She writes on science, medicine, the media, economics, and sometimes even sports and the arts, and tends to focus on the underlying cultural and societal implications. She is the author most recently of Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture.
Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

A Breathtaking Tour Above the Moab Desert

Filmmaker Ian Cresswell rigs an HD camera atop a remote-controlled "octocopter" for some spectacular aerial views.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Where Time Comes From

The clocks that coordinate your cellphone, GPS, and more

Video

Computer Vision Syndrome and You

Save your eyes. Take breaks.

Video

What Happens in 60 Seconds

Quantifying human activity around the world

Writers

Up
Down

More in Technology

From This Author

Just In