We've moved!

Social Icons

twitterfacebooklinkedinrss feed

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Study Hard, Serve Your Country, Shoot for the Stars

In Friday's debate at Ole Miss, Senator Barack Obama mentioned the Chinese space program as one reason we need to invest more in science, technology, and education. Said Obama, "We've got to make sure that our children are keeping pace in math and in science. And one of the things I think we have to do is make sure that college is affordable for every young person in America."

So what's the big deal about a couple of Chinese guys poking their heads out of a space capsule, waving a plastic flag, and doing a couple Mr. Wizard experiments? Well, same thing that was a big deal about two American guys planting an American flag on the Moon. It's an adventure, an expression of human courage and dreams.

But for a more specific answer, watch this video of Chinese television coverage of the first Chinese spacewalk. Forward to timemark 7:30 and listen to the American commentator (he sounds like one of our veteran astronauts, but I can't place him yet):

Chinese commentator: This project... actually can inspire many youth to join in science and math. As I just watched the presidential debate... Obama said that China is catching up... the United States should educate, should inspire its children to be joining in math and science education more.

American commentator: This is a real problem in the United States right now. Many young people are reluctant to work hard enough to become scientists or engineers—

Chinese commentator: Because science is hard—

American commentator: —because science is hard and because getting a job in a service industry is easy. A lot of brainpower is being wasted because of that and because of the fixation simply on making money rather than contributing to the betterment of mankind.

Science is hard. It takes time. But I'm not quite ready to blame my generation and the one coming up for laziness. When you come out of college already $20K in the hole and need to buy your own health insurance, you don't feel like you have a lot of time to explore career options that might not pay off as quickly as a job in insurance or banking (although maybe the mortgage meltdown will change that).

Math, science, and engineering are hard (well, not for regular commenter Tony, but he's a mental machine! ;-) ). As a nation, we can encourage young people to pursue careers in those fields by supporting great endeavors like returning to the Moon (returning? heck—try colonizing!). We need to build respect and enthusiasm for science and learning to face the challenges of the future.

Gee, maybe having a President who sounds "professorial" is exactly what we need in the 21st century.

Bring on the professors, the eggheads, and the dreamers: they're the ones who'll get us to the stars.


  1. The American commentator is correct, the job focus has generally shifted from wanting to be part of some grand vision to being paid well. The reason for this, in engineering at least, is because of the massive wage decreases over the last 25 or so years. While engineers have not been on par with medical professionals, they were always in the top percentiles.

    Today that is not the case. If you want to make money, it's much more profitable to go grab an MBA than anything else (and arguable far easier). Couple that with employers viewing technical employees as a disposable asset rather than something to be grown and you have the current situation.

    No amount of education incentives will correct this problem. It's just more profitable to be a Doctor/Lawyer/MBA. Individuals who are capable of being an engineer/scientist can also be any of those three.

    The only really profitable segment for engineers to work on currently is war.

  2. How do we plant the seeds of values other than mammon-worship into the minds and hearts of our young people?

  3. Always with the hard questions, Stan....

    I'm not the best values-gardener, but I'll try. Individually, we can each speak up and lead by example. Politically, we promote frugality and conservation instead of consumption, and we promote community so people know they aren't on their own. If we had better support systems for health care, education, etc., maybe people wouldn't feel as driven to go for the highest-paying job. It works in Canada: with national health insurance and cheaper higher education, young people feel more freedom to pursue the careers of their dreams rather than the highest-paying contract of the moment.

  4. Maybe the ongoing economic crisis will get people more interested in fields such as pure mathematics, which can be a great drug-free escape from this flawed world.


Comments are closed, as this portion of the Madville Times is in archive mode. You can join the discussion of current issues at MadvilleTimes.com.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.