Yes, this is apparently a huge problem -- big enough that the major Valley companies (and probably a zillion small companies) are getting into trouble for raiding each others' employees. There are lawsuits right and left over the abusing of laws meant to discourage corporate raiding.
The "talent" question is a big one. A few years ago I watched a young but experienced coder write a simple two variable decision by trial and error. For crying out loud: there are only four possibilities the finished piece of code was only nine lines long including closing braces. There was absolutely no reason for it to be done by trial and error.
If this represents the common level of talent available today, there is no wondering why industry is looking elsewhere.
Good points, Jon. However, there is one deficit that plagues technology, computer coders. When asked what his biggest challenge was with Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg recently said, "Talent!" All of Silicon Valley is competing for talent. They're pressuring the government to open the doors to more Asian imigrants, since we're not growing enough of our own.
No Child Left Behind was a good idea, but for a number of reasons, it died when applied. For one thing, those who applied it did not get teacher buy-in. With teachers hating it, it really didn't stand a chance. And once applied, teachers simply taught to the test in order to save their schools. At lot of good that did.
Did I actually see you advocate giving kids a "certification" without the associated acheivement? Let's remember what acheiving a certain grade should mean. It shouldn't mean you've sat at school for that number of years. It should mean that you've acquired a certain level of skill and knowledge. To pass a kid who hasn't acheived that isn't doing the kid any favors, it is just lowering the value of the diploma.
No child left behind got a lot of things wrong, and as such has assisted in messing up our education. Among the problems, it measures the acquisition of facts, but not the ability to reason clearly or think creatively. Data is easy to come by, what kids need to learn today is not a lot of facts, rather they need to learn how to distinguish good information from bad and how to use the information effectively.
Agreed, having simply a bunch of students who have been exposed to STEM won't make more engineers. You almost are born one. My wife is a Mental Health Counselor and views my colleagues and I as "different" in how we think and make decisions. Not that our methods are bad, just different.
For those who would be good canadiates, ecconomics makes a big difference. If you are not sure about your job security in engineering, other professions look better. My daughter had plenty of STEM exposure and capability but she decided on an IT project management path. Why? She saw how I worked and worried about having a job next week (or didn't get a raise for years) and that wasn't for her. Engineers like logical decisions and most management seem to decide something arbratary from week to week. There is no support from business for Engineers, they are a cost drain for a company, not a resource to be valued.
I grew up during the space race and got excited with engineering partially because society valued those guys who had the "right stuff" and everybody involved. Now society values Reality TV and how extreme things can be. Engineering reflects society's direction since our projects only get funded if there is a demand.
"Getting the government to fund STEM programs--as well as English-lit and art programs, among others--simply distorts supply and demand."
"That said, it can't hurt to kindle technical interests with science fairs, robotics competitions, electronic-educational kits, and after-school activities. But we individuals stand a better chance at getting kids and grandkids interested in technology than STEM programs in schools."
@williamlweaver: There are definitely aspects of our culture which undermine academic achievement; for example, it's considered perfectly normal and socially acceptable to say, "I'm no good at math."
My Chinese friends tell me that no one would dream of saying this in China; not because Chinese people are naturally better at math, but because it would be deeply embarassing. It would be like admitting that you can't read or write. And, in fact, since it's simply not considered socially acceptable to be bad at math, most people in China are proficient in basic math.
Attitudes towards teachers in the U.S. also seem to be less respectful than in many other countries, and attitudes towards education seem to be more lax. My daughters grew up in El Salvador and moved to the U.S. as teenagers. In the first year, they were in a bilingual education program. After the first year, my older daughter graduated and went on to community college, and my younger daughter moved into the regular program at the high school.
During my younger daughter's first week of regular classes, I noticed that she always seemed to be on the couch watching TV when I got home. The previous year, when she was in bilingual classes, I would usually find her doing homework.
"What's going on?" I asked. "How come you're not doing your homework?"
"I don't have any," she said.
"What do you mean?" I said. "Aren't they giving you any homework?"
"Yeah, but hardly any, and I do it all in class," she said. "The regular teachers don't give as much homework, because they know the kids won't do it."
I was skeptical, but my older daughter backed her up. She said that the regular students (who, for the most part, were either born or grew up in the U.S.) were much worse-behaved than the bilingual students. Unlike the bilingual students -- most of whom grew up in Mexico or Central America, and had been taught to respect teachers and value education, even if their own parents were not well-educated -- the regular students were rebellious and disrespectful. As a result, the regular teachers had to spend more of their time trying to control the classroom, instead of teaching.
Granted, this is in a below-average school district (we are planning to move to a better one), but I suspect the underlying cultural attitudes are not too different, even in the best school districts.
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