Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Why No Child Wants To Study Math and Science

Kansas City area students recognize that their generation had better master math and science.

But too many of them, according to a survey released today, answer, “Who, me?” when asked what they personally intended to do about it.
from theKansas City Star

Most engineering schools stress subjects like differential calculus and physics, and their graduates tend to end up narrowly focused and likely to fit the stereotype of a socially awkward clock-puncher. Richard K. Miller, the president of the school, likes to share a professional joke: “How can you tell an extroverted engineer? He’s the one who looks at your shoes when he talks to you.”
from The New York Times

I have noticed that children aren't all that dumb, they may not be able to tell you in some may words why they know something is bad but they do have the gut feeling that something is wrong. They read Dilbert and see that it is too close to the truth, when their Uncle Bob or their friend's dad is laid off and it takes months if not years for that family to recover.

They might not have a plan on what they should do but they do have a clue about what they know won't work out. How many times do you have to hear on the news that more engineers are being laid off and jobs moved offshore before you realize that engineering is not a good, safe job.

Getting a math, science or engineering degree is hard work, and then when you do get a job, even if you do a great job solving a problem that had never been solved before, it is all that was expected of you, but if something doesn't come out in just the right color, you're fired. The story of the guy who invented the blue LED and got $11,000 for it is real. And there are tons of other stories about inventors getting fleeced. One of my former bosses had founded a company but he was little more then a show dog for them, he would invent things and get hardly anything back from the company after he gave control to the VCs who put in their own management team.

The kids see "All pain, no gain" so obviously they are going to choose to go in another direction.

An engineering degree is a long hard slog, I remember we had a whole college lecture and the speaker asked how many expected to graduate in 4 years, only 1 person raised their hand out of 1500 students, most expected 5-6 years. And when you do get out of school you end up doing huge amounts of grunt work, until you are ready to do real work.

If they are even the slightest bit diligent they realize that businesses aren't really interested in engineering for the most part. Engineering wages have been stagnant for decades, except for a blip for the dotboom period. They hear their parents or the parents of friends about how the engineer slaves all day and night but the English LIt manager gets all the reward.

Why should they ever think of going into the hard stuff when the soft stuff gets better rewards.

I have got to give Olin credit here. Helping engineers be more entrepreneurial will help them far more then another math class ever will.

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