Following is an excerpt dealing with science and education:
And to keep America competitive, one commitment is necessary above all: We must continue to lead the world in human talent and creativity. Our greatest advantage in the world has always been our educated, hardworking, ambitious people -- and we're going to keep that edge. Tonight I announce an American Competitiveness Initiative, to encourage innovation throughout our economy, and to give our nation's children a firm grounding in math and science. (Applause.)
First, I propose to double the federal commitment to the most critical basic research programs in the physical sciences over the next 10 years. This funding will support the work of America's most creative minds as they explore promising areas such as nanotechnology, supercomputing, and alternative energy sources.
Second, I propose to make permanent the research and development tax credit -- (applause) -- to encourage bolder private-sector initiatives in technology. With more research in both the public and private sectors, we will improve our quality of life -- and ensure that America will lead the world in opportunity and innovation for decades to come. (Applause.)
Third, we need to encourage children to take more math and science, and to make sure those courses are rigorous enough to compete with other nations. We've made a good start in the early grades with the No Child Left Behind Act, which is raising standards and lifting test scores across our country. Tonight I propose to train 70,000 high school teachers to lead advanced-placement courses in math and science, bring 30,000 math and science professionals to teach in classrooms, and give early help to students who struggle with math, so they have a better chance at good, high-wage jobs. If we ensure that America's children succeed in life, they will ensure that America succeeds in the world.
I have some questions concerning the identification of a "problem" and the application of reources to "fix" it.
First, I believe in basic (or pure) research and I understand that an investment by the government in this area may have very positive payoffs. Doubling that investment over ten years implies an annual growth rate of 8%. It doesn't sound like a huge number but I don't see any way that such an increase can be spent in a manner likely to actually double 'results' over ten years. The 'new' scientists available to actually conduct the experiments are already in the leaky educational pipeline - which as the the second portion of the selection notes is leaking badly and in need of replacement - not repair. Increasing the flow while saying that you're going to repair leaks (maybe) over time does not seem to be a particularly rational approach.
The second item is the actual focus of the exercise - making the R & D tax credit permanent. This will be described as a "corporate giveaway" and can be logically construed as such. I don't disapprove of the tax credit because it's one of the few that actually directly achieve the intended purpose in that more research and development actually occurs because of it. A tax credit (rather than a deduction) creates a 50-cent dollar rather than a .70 or .80 cent (maybe) dollar. If the credit is permanent then long term planning comes more strongly into play and permanent programs are strengthened.
The third item is going to meet heavy resistance from the NEA because it enters into the realm of their greatest fear and greatest weakness - measurable outcomes.
I've been thinking about what's going on in public education for a bit. I've been involved in budget and facility planning for an expansion of a pre-school into a primary school for about two years (with a huge milestone passed Sunday last) and I have a fair idea about what actual costs are involved in running a private school. Gaining that knowledge has not improved my perception of public schools one whit.
Recently, Knuck did a pointer piece that led me over to Kitchen Table Math where Carolyn and Catherine are exploring the 'rubber meets the road' aspects of math instruction at the (for the moment) early middle school level. They both have PhD's with Carolyn's field being mathematics. Recently Catherine has been writing about what she perceives as a disparity of treatment and results between boys and girls in education. The subject interested me so I went fishing in a couple of excellent data pools but to no avail. The only definitive statistics in support of Catherine's position are provided in the differences in starting salaries offered to men and women with like grade averages in identical disciplines. Men get the edge but "Why" would be open to dispute. I lean toward efficiency of the market in its valuation of talent but I might be wrong.
All the foregoing leads to a hypothesis that I've developed that is in need of evidentiary support. The hypothesis is that the reduction in meaningful discipline (meaningful = discipline that has a lasting effect) within the classroom and schools has led the educracy to the point where docility is over rewarded in an effort to make life bearable for teachers and administrators. Concurrently, while little Festus is being punished through a grading system, he is also not learning due to his behavior not being corrected. He's suffering a lot more from the C grade that keeps him from advancement than he is from the temporary pain he would feel if his knuckles had been rapped sharply a few times. The only real evidence I can find for this is the number of boys applying to college. That number started dropping in '01 and the drop off continues. The class of '01 entered the educracy in '87-'88 - just about the time when actual discipline had been pretty thoroughly weeded from the classroom.
I would be very interested in thoughts concerning this hypothesis. I don't regard it as being the result of any 'plan' by educrats. One reason being that I am unconvinced that educrats have an actual grasp of cause and effect on a level beyond the most superficial to begin with.
The President isn't going to have much luck in getting math whizzes to teach undisciplined mobs of kids and the idea of elevating 70K teachers to the competency in math required to teach at the AP level is risible on its face. Math competency is a card that is not in their hands and wishing it so won't put it there.