Posted by: thediygeochemist | February 24, 2010

two interesting articles

From Science Daily:

Parents Still Major Influence on Child’s Decision to Pursue Science Careers

Parental influence and access to mathematics courses are likely to guide students to careers in science, technology, engineering, mathematics or medicine (STEMM), according to research from Michigan State University….

According to Miller, “The pathway to a STEMM career begins at home.” He said this is especially true in families in which children were strongly encouraged to go to college.

“Only four percent of students who experienced low parent encouragement to attend college planned to enter a post-secondary program and major in a STEMM field,” he said. “This compares to 41 percent of students whose parents strongly encouraged college attendance.”

My thoughts: In today’s society, people consistently underestimate the influence parents have on their children. Parents–not schools, not peers, not programs–are the primary key to making any change in the rising generation.

From Scientific American:
Does the U.S. Produce Too Many Scientists?

This article is so long that it’s hard to create a summary with relevant quotes; go read it yourself and comment here.

My response: The article misses the real cause of “too many scientists” (and, I should add, too many Ph.D.’s in any field): Too many people going to college, period.

Universities are stretched to their financial limit, which means they can’t hire enough tenured faculty to teach student classes. Instead, they hire TAs…who have to be grad students. Thus, they must actively recruit grad students. And since most of the older faculty still remembers the “good old days” when faculty jobs were plentiful, they tell students that academia is the only way to go. (I think the resulting oversupply of Ph.D.s has also contributed to the adjunct faculty mess.)

My solution: Create more national labs with permanent research positions to be staffed by Ph.D.s. Create an accreditation system that rewards universities where large freshman/sophomore classes are taught by tenured faculty members.

Above all, stop teaching the “everyone should go to college” idiocy: there’s nothing wrong with being a plumber, an auto mechanic, or a massage therapist. Instead, make a push for the philosophy that education should never stop; even when you’re out of school, you should read, discuss, apply, learn. People need to learn that education should come, first and foremost, from themselves: that they don’t need to be reliant on an external institution to get knowledge inside their brains.


  1. I agree completely on the issue of too many people going to college. However…there’s a sense of entitlement among some students. You know the type, the “legacy students” who take seven or eight years to get a fluff degree because their parents are paying for it. These are the people who SHOULD be pursuing alternative careers, but first-gens from economically disadvantaged families are probably more likely to do so. 😦

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