World’s best university…

… is in China.

By Erik Dolson

This is according to an article in The Economist: “In 2013-16 it produced more of the top 1% most highly cited papers in maths and computing, and more of the 10% most highly cited papers in stem, than any other university in the world … ” according to the article, which can be read here.

I would like to credit Republicans for this, and how they have denigrated education, turned their backs on science, cut educational budgets where they could, turned education into a political football and generally pandered to the less educated in the United States. Yes, that is true and is verified by a number of (gasp!) scientific polls of Trump supporters. Sorry. Facts is facts.

And because I like offending everybody, I would also like to credit the liberal education establishment for postulating the nonsense that self-esteem is as important as rigor, for putting unqualified teachers in charge of teaching math and science in too many classrooms, and for putting pensions above professionalism.

There. Did I leave anybody out? Oh. Yes. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google, Microsoft and all of the rest of the corporations (you too, AT&T and Verizon and Comcast) that made billions of dollars investing in research that proved how addicting their business models could be for the vast majority in our population by working at deep levels of the brain to provide a pleasure fix, shorten attention span and generally bring about the zombie apocalypse without all the gore.

Parents, you too. Was letting your children play video games so they wouldn’t bug you while you were perusing your Facebook page really worth the outcome?

There. That ought to do it.

To be clear, by the standards I’m talking about, I’m a low achiever and just as guilty as the rest of you. Let’s get that out of the way. I’m not just calling names here or pointing out the faults of others. I could have done much more with my life and for my children. That’s not the point.

The point is, at a time when knowledge and the ability to apply knowledge has never been more important, as robots eliminate jobs not already shipped overseas to countries with lower labor costs and lax environmental regulations, the United States of America has lost — pissed away, pardon me — the greatest advantage we really had over the rest of the world besides our wealth: Our educational advantage. For decades, China, India, Iran, Egypt, Israel and other countries sent their best and their brightest here to learn science, computing, medicine, physics, chemistry, biology and so on.

We benefit from this. If you go into any teaching hospital, take a look at the staff. What do you see? When I walk into Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland, Oregon where I grew up, I see very few of the suburban types I grew up with, let alone men and women from lumber mill towns that once were the backbone of Oregon’s economy. I do see many doctors from other cultures that valued education, hard work and high expectations. Yes, from China, India, Pakistan, Mexico … elsewhere.

We benefit from these doctors and certainly need them to take care of a huge impaction of baby boomers making their way to the exit. The point is, what about the children and grandchildren of every other corner of our country, espcially places far from the coasts?

To be ready for the future, we have to prepare for the future. That means fixing things that are broken with our educational systems. This is not rocket science and the “debate” has gone on far too long about what to do. What works is known and is used in other countries that consistently beat our best in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). It also means valuing education and the educated.

If America truly wants to be great again, we have to be less comfortable, not more. Inequality has to exist in the absence of cultural incentives. We also have to take care of our citizens younger than three years old, so they have the nutrition and mental health to concentrate in school. We have to revere, not mock, those who impart knowledge. And, maybe, we’ll have to send our best students to China at some point, assuming they can qualify for college there and are allowed into that country. I would not bet on either.

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About Erik Dolson

Erik Dolson is a writer living in Oregon

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