There was an interesting article in the news this morning about how a large number of college graduates in China are causing an employment problem in that nation. Larger numbers of graduates make the job market more difficult to penetrate.
It was an interesting premise but not what I took from the article.
If China is graduating seven million highly educated students each year and the United States is producing fewer that means a shift of brain power in the world. An interesting article here shows how China has already surpassed the United States in college graduates and India will do so soon.
This shift of intelligence is changing the dynamics of power and the role of the United States in the world. It’s actually a good thing that countries like China and India are graduating more students and empowering young women. This has many beneficial effects for the world including decreasing population growth and increasing general wealth and well-being. However, it is also a challenge to the United States.
I wrote not long ago about how there is a politically motivated movement to discredit science in the United States. There is a general undercurrent of disdain for academia and intellectual achievement. The power structure of the world is changing as we continue to move from the Industrial Age to the Information Age. The countries that embrace this change will lead this new world in the same way the United States led during the Industrial Revolution.
Graduating college students is directly related to new technology, new ideas, and a new way of producing wealth. I’m not suggesting everyone should go to college, that a college degree is the end-all goal of every single person. I am suggesting that the nation that produces the largest number of intelligent people will have an advantage in the new world.
As I said, I’m thrilled to see China, India, and other nations educating their youth and making the entire world a better place. I’m eager for the days of abundant and cheap energy, super-fast transportation, and a stable population with plenty of food and goods for all.
I’m not so encouraged by my country’s response to the gauntlet that has been thrown down by the emerging world, and by Europe and other places. Economic power is, in many ways, military power. If the United States is not making the important breakthroughs, if the United States is not leading the way then we will be following. In some ways we are already following.
China and India have a huge advantage in massive populations but the underlying issue is society’s emphasis on education. It’s stronger in other nations than it is in the United States.
My main fear is that as the United States continues to fall from our preeminent position of power in the world that the citizens of my country will grow increasingly frightened. That we will elect officials who stoke this fear and offer draconian solutions to “save” our nation. That the very tenants of the Founding Fathers will be discarded in order to make us “safe”. On a personal level, that my freedom will be taken away.
In order to combat this decline and this fear I say emphasize education, teach people critical thinking skills, and venerate science.
Let us not fear this new world but instead embrace it and join it as an equal.
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Great piece. It’s true that places like China and India are producing more college graduates than the US, but Fareed Zakaria claims in his book “The Post-American World” that while this is true, the higher education system in Asia is still focused on rote memorization and the passage of exams while the system in the US focuses more on critical and analytic thinking skills. He says that because of this the US is still leading the way in innovation and entrepreneurial enterprise despite trailing in the number of graduates, and he points out that many, many of those Asian graduates are still coming to the US to find the best jobs and make a better life for themselves. If this is true than there is an interesting dynamic at play here that many may not be immediately aware of.
Thank you for the comment.
I agree that there are many factors involved and it’s not easy to make general statements. Some would even argue that a college degree doesn’t necessarily equate to intelligence and I think there is something to that argument.
Still, my personal experience is that Asians, Indians, and Europeans seem to be making a greater a greater impact in fields requiring education and intelligence. I also think that while the United States still attracts great minds it is to a lesser degree.
Asians, Indians, and Europeans are staying in their own countries because opportunities are broadening in those places for great scientific advancement. I think this is a good thing. When the rest of the world becomes modern, “western” for lack of a better term, it helps us all. I just worry about the direction of the United States when it comes to science and technical advancement.
It seems to me that there is a lack of reverence for those fields in the United States among the people, which trickles up to the politicians and eventually to our science programs.
Not that there aren’t still many amazing minds out there right now on their way to great success.
Anyway, there are a certainly many factors involved and it will be interesting to see the state of science in the United States in, say, twenty-five years.
Thanks again for the comment and always feel free to disagree with my conclusions!
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