NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

WHEN WILL WE WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COMPETITION?

February 25, 2005

U.S. corporations are begging for talent, as foreign scientists and engineers increasingly find well-paying jobs on their own doorsteps. Consequently, the balance of innovation has begun to tilt eastward, as China and India start taking their own products to market. For the first time, other nations are about to produce more U.S. patents per year than the United States, says Craig R. Barrett is CEO of Intel Corporation.

China and India are expanding their university-level math, science and engineering programs at a pace comparable to the United States after World War II. Asian colleges now produce six times the number of engineering degrees produced here.

As psychologists report, human beings tend to put off necessary changes until the moment they begin to feel pain. And, by and large, the pain hasn't reached us yet, says Barrett:

  • A $618 billion U.S. trade deficit doesn't hurt when Americans can fill their homes with the latest discount electronic gadgets and designer duds produced in Asia.
  • Though downsizing and outsourcing produce great discomfort for a few, most remain unaffected.
  • And while the dollar has taken a record-breaking tumble against the euro and the yen, Americans can get credit at the lowest interest rates in 50 years.

Perhaps what's needed is another good punch in the eye, like the one we had in 1957 when the Soviet Union launched the world's first satellite, says Barrett. Jolted by the competition, the United States pushed for excellence in mathematics and science, resulting in dramatic increases in enrollments and then in the number of scientists and engineers. These workers created new generations of technology and commercial applications that led to the United States' preeminence in the global economy.

Source: Craig R. Barrett, "Educational complacency will make U.S. feel the pain," USA Today, February 24, 2005.

 

Browse more articles on Education Issues