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The Democratization of Scientific Knowledge

Under Why we should aim for universal technical literacy, not more Ph.D. Edweek (registration required) publishes this interesting article:

We have framed the problem almost exclusively in terms of producing more scientists and engineers, practitioners at the highest levels. This raises, for me, two main fears: that we will return to Sputnik-era solutions and fail to take advantage of the accumulated wisdom of the past 50 years, and that we will focus on immediate but short-lived solutions. If our goals are to avoid job losses to other countries and produce the largest number of Ph.D, we are entering an impossible race. Simple mathematics tells us that we won’t win by the numbers when our population is one-third that of India and one-fourth that of China. And economic theory tells us that wage pressures on international corporations are simply too great.

The country’s primary goal should be to train the majority of its citizens to be technically competent. Technical competency—being familiar with and able to use the critical analytical skills of mathematics and science—is the key to the creation of jobs. These are not jobs that require terminal degrees; they are for the entrepreneurs, biotechnology-lab technicians, plant engineers, medical workers, traders, and even politicians of the future. Our most powerful asset as a nation is that we have tried for many years to educate every student in mathematics and science, and have learned much from that experience—even in our failures.

Forget Ph.D.s, concludes science educator Dennis M. Bartels. The country's primary goal should be universal technical literacy.

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