Innovation Answers

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Although he said in his State of the Union speech that our “free enterprise system is what drives innovation,” in the mysteriously one-track mind of Barack Obama, government spending is his real answer to every problem.

Despite the desperate need for strength in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), a tiny 1 percent of the $50 billion in Federal education “discretionary spending” was proposed for STEM in Obama’s fiscal 2011 budget.

Our nation’s global share of activity in STEM-focused industries is in decline, jeopardizing our status as a world leader in innovation. According to the Programme For International Student Assessment, our 15 year-old students now trail their counterparts in Shanghai by 56 points, with even larger gaps in science (73 points) and mathematics (113 points)—the subjects which form the basis of our nation’s innovative capacity. Howard Rich, chairman of Americans for Limited Government, pointed this out in a Feb. 3 column.

The fiscal 2011 budget for federal education was called “one of the largest increases” ever. The $50 billion in discretionary spending was on top of $100 billion in the 2009 “stimulus package” for education—mainly teacher jobs (read: teacher union valentines). But is spending the key to innovation? Since 1985, federal spending on K-12 education has spurted ahead by 138 percent, but academic achievement and graduation rates have remained pancake-flat.

This stand-still condition, which Obama hopes to change with more funding, will only widen the innovation gap between the U.S. and the rest of the industrialized world. According to the non-partisan Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF), America ranked sixth among the world’s top 40 industrialized countries in “innovative competitiveness” but last in its “rate of change in innovative capacity.”

In its instructive 2010 report, the ITIF lays out in detail how to give more American students stronger STEM skills and get them into STEM jobs. In spite of the proliferation of reports raising the same alarm and continuing to call for the same solutions, “what are needed are fresh approaches,” the organization said.

Virtually every call to action recommends a “some STEM for all” approach. For example, Obama has called for recruiting 10,000 teachers to teach all students in the areas of STEM. Mary Frances Taymans, board member of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, has called for “a strong science education for all students,” according to the Washington Times. Obama has asked for $2.3 million for women and girls to close the gender gap in STEM students. It matters not whether they have the interest or capacity.

The “prevailing view is that the way to ensure that more Americans have needed STEM skills is to make sure” that every step of the way from kindergarten through graduate school all students get as much STEM education as possible, including teacher training and new curriculum, with the fragile “hope that this will increase the likelihood that at least some of them will go into STEM jobs.”

But it’s not that simple, the Foundation’s discerning study says. Policies emerging from this ‘some STEM for all’ approach “are actually not very effective.” Very few workers need extensive STEM skills. “In fact, STEM jobs constitute at most 5 percent of all jobs.

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  • ApolloSpeaks


    Obama's address before the Chamber of Commerce Monday could be summed up this way:

    "Forget about burdensome taxes and regulations, Obamacare and the EPA. Forget about weak consumer demand and the climate of uncertainty, pessimism and fear. Forget all these things. I did my part in stimulating the economy, now you must do yours. You must follow my reckless example of these last two years and go deeper into debt. You must throw caution to the winds and SPEND BABY SPEND. Buy new equipment, hire more workers, give better wages and expand. Forget about your bottom line and obligation to investors.


    • Dan

      And forget about your firm's sales forecasts (from which you make decisions to "buy new equipment, hire more workers…. and expand." Forget also about informed risk. Go ahead and gamble with your investors' money so you can "BAILOUT MY PRESIDENCY."

  • ApolloSpeaks

    You have a social responsibility to the people of this land; an obligation to share your wealth with them and get the economy moving again. Let social justice be your guide, profits be damned! Just as I bailed out Wall Street, the banks and GM; just as I saved us from a second Depression and saved millions of jobs now it's time to pay me back and show gratitude for God's sake. Fair is fair. Get off your butts, raid your treasuries and spend your $2 trillion in capital reserves; put America back to work with your unspent cash and BAILOUT MY PRESIDENCY."

    Click my name to read my companion piece: Obama Blames Corporate America for Failed Policies.

  • PayForTalent

    There's a very easy way to raise the interest of American students in STEM jobs: STOP IMPORTING CHEAP, FOREIGN LABOR UNDER H1B/L1 VISA PROGRAMS THEREBY KEEPING COMPENSATION FOR THOSE JOBS LOW. Get the cheap labor out of the system, let salaries and compensation rise, and more students will find those jobs attractive and pursue them.

    Intellect is a commodity just like any other; if you want it, you have to PAY for it. Is it any wonder why talented students want to be lawyers and financiers? THOSE PEOPLE GET PAID BIG $$$$$.

    • USMCSniper

      The lawyers and financiers? THOSE PEOPLE GET PAID BIG $$$$$ – THAT IS TRUE. The former are the bloodsuckers of society who do nothing but pass paper with other lawyers for $350 – $1000 an hour and 33% + for their class action suets where they represent nobody in particluar like tobacco, silicon breats implants, etc,, . Financiers (George Soros e.g., ) just move worthless paper around like junk bonds and hedge bonds, and high risk mortgages and inflate the value of all worthless paper following government minimum standards and skim from people who really create wealth.

  • minnieiam

    The reason the US has fallen behind in these areas is because our educational system is focused on advancing underachievers into positions they are not qualified for nor prepared to handle. Schools and colleges have been dumbed down to accommodate the lack of interest and ability of those who now are the focus of all educational efforts. Throughout history, white males have been the inovators and leaders in all areas, yet today , over 60% of college students are female and when you add in the preferred affirmative actioned minorities that leaves only about 25% who are white males. Call me a racist and bigot if you want to but the facts are that we are in the mess we are in now because for the past 60 years our most productive inovators, WASP males, have been pushed to the back of the line and the less than most qualified have been socially promoted into positions of leadership in government and busines. The facts speak for themselves.

  • Laurie

    I remember a friend who said that the Israeli university she attended was a "leftist factory". Our universities also persuade many of our students to have more leftist attitudes. On top of that, students coming in spend 4 years, maybe in science or technology, and then don't end up following that career. This is partly the fault of our economy, which does not have much opportunity for scientists and engineers.