Norm Matloff Writes On American Students And Science
May 06, 2008, 03:22 PM
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Professor Norm Matloff sent this out to his email list:
From: Norm Matloff [Email him]

Subject: Salzman and Lowell published by Nature

The British journal Nature is one of the two or three most prestigious scientific publications in the world. Thus Hal Salzman and B. Lindsay Lowell have achieved quite a coup in having the findings of their study on American capabilities in math and science published in the journal, even if it is in the form of commentary.

Salzman and Lowell, you will recall, published a study for the Urban Institute a few months ago in which they debunked the myths that American kids are abysmal at math and science, that we are not producing enough people with degrees in those fields, that our average math/science scores are misleading because sadly we have not solved the problem of educating the underclass but the mainstream is fine, and so on. It is the most thorough, careful study related to the H-1B issue I`ve seen in years. See my postings on the study here and here.

The Nature column by Salzman and Lowell not only summarizes some of their previous findings, but also makes some points that are, I believe new.

One of these new points is striking: In absolute numbers, the U.S. has more top-scoring kids in math and science than any other country studied—by far. The authors point out that it is mainly these kids who become the innovators later as adults, and we`ve got an excellent supply of them. This is completely counter to what one constantly sees in the popular press.

Which leads to a point Salzman made in announcing his article to the Sloan Industry Centers e-mail discussion group: "We`d welcome reactions and particularly thoughts on why the S&E shortage claim is so strongly believed despite lack of evidence." The answer, of course, is that the groups that stand to benefit from a public perception of an S&E shortage—the tech industry (who want an expanded H-1B work visa program for its cheap labor), the immigration lawyers (who want an expanded H-1B for obvious reasons), the education lobby ("Give us more money so we can remedy the shortage") and so on hire the slickest PR people money can buy. They`ve been at it for years, to the point at which many people in Congress, the press and the public at large simply take it for granted that "Johnnie can`t do math."

The Nature article is Making the Grade .[PDF]