In the future, the most successful countries will have the sharpest minds.
That’s good news for China.
In the first week of August, the Center for Security and Emerging Technology, a think tank affiliated with Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, reported that “China is Fast Outpacing US STEM PhD Growth” — news that should worry every American.
“Based on current enrollment patterns, we project that by 2025 Chinese universities will produce more than 77,000 STEM PhD graduates per year compared to approximately 40,000 in the United States,” the authors wrote. More than “three-quarters of Chinese doctoral graduates” now specialize in STEM fields, a trend that will “undermine US long-term economic and national security.”
As the hacking of the US government back in December so clearly demonstrates, America’s national security is already in a pitiful state. And as the Chinese get better at computer skills, the US will become even more vulnerable to attack.
Although the United States is home to some of the best universities in the world, it’s no good having exceptional establishments if they’re not being used to breed exceptional minds. The demise in educational standards can be seen across the country, from elementary schools to elite universities, as many American educrats now consider mathematics and science to be reflective of racism and, of course, “white privilege.”
Earlier this year, California’s Instructional Quality Commission put forward a proposal to change the way math is taught in state schools, arguing that the notion of giftedness has “led to considerable inequities in mathematics education.” The new framework seeks to decelerate the math curriculum: All students — no matter their ability — would be taught the same classes until 11th grade. And though AP classes wouldn’t be completely eliminated, no students will be allowed to take them until 12th grade.
Portland State University now offers a “culturally responsive” curriculum, which seeks to recognize “racial and cultural diversity in learning” and to teach “to and through the strengths” of each student. Whatever that means. Meanwhile, Oregon’s Gov. Kate Brown recently signed a bill into law stating that, for the next five years, high school students will no longer have to demonstrate any degree of proficiency in reading, writing and mathematics to graduate. The bill, we’re told, will benefit “Oregon’s Black, Latino, Latina, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, Pacific Islander, Tribal, and students of color.”
It won’t. It can’t. By dumbing down graduation requirements, the bill is, in fact, racist. It reeks of condescension. The bill doesn’t just lower the bar; it completely removes it.
A degree in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion might sound appealing to some, but it really shouldn’t. The jobs of tomorrow require STEM skills. The United States’ greatest victories, including World War II and the moon landing, were fueled by mathematical and scientific knowledge. Without a basic understanding of math and science, the United States will struggle to compete with China, a country busy investing billions in educating a new generation of cyber-wizkids.
Increasing numbers of US students are already struggling to grasp the fundamentals. Results from national science tests in 2019 show that only a third of fourth- and eighth-graders managed a “proficient” score or better, while fewer than 25 percent of 12th-graders cleared that mark. Worse, about 30 percent of students at the two lower grade levels and 40 percent of 12th-graders couldn’t even achieve the “basic” level.
Right now, the United States is ranked 31st in math literacy out of 79 countries, while China ranks 1st in mathematical proficiency. At this rate, that disparity will only get worse.
John Mac Ghlionn is a researcher and essayist. His work has been published by The South China Morning Post, Sydney Morning Herald, and Spectator USA. You can follow him @ghlionn