I’ve stated more than once what I consider as one of the greatest long-term threats facing American prosperity: The unwillingness of America’s most talented and educated young people to pursue the sorts of practical fields that propelled this country to the pinnacle of technological leadership in the 20th century.
In his most recent column, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman outlined how this practical knowledge deficit is seriously undermining our competitive standing among other advanced nations:
“Here is a little dose of reality about where we actually rank today,” says [former MIT President Charles M.] Vest: sixth in global innovation-based competitiveness, but 40th in rate of change over the last decade; 11th among industrialized nations in the fraction of 25- to 34-year-olds who have graduated from high school; 16th in college completion rate; 22nd in broadband Internet access; 24th in life expectancy at birth; 27th among developed nations in the proportion of college students receiving degrees in science or engineering; 48th in quality of K-12 math and science education; and 29th in the number of mobile phones per 100 people.
I’ve outlined more than once in this forum the role that 4-H and FFA could play in helping spark a counterrevolution of practical scientific knowledge among many of this nation’s best and brightest. No two change agents are better equipped to provide young people with an appreciation for practical science and critical thinking and to help restore these values to a preeminent place in American life.
Are they listening?