News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


R&D, education nation's way out of economic crises

The United States' next economic crisis is under way even while the nation grapples with soaring foreign debt and staggering job losses.

The country lost about 3 million manufacturing jobs in the past five years while the trade deficit ballooned to $66 billion in September.

To resolve one crisis, the nation must address the other one now with adequate resources.

The National Summit on Competitiveness made up of manufacturers had sobering news for the Bush administration this week: Get the government more involved in research and development or watch the nation lose its global leadership and standard of living.

Changes are taking place. Many workers are forced into lower-paying service jobs when manufacturing plants close. Many nations no longer look to us for world leadership.

Here's what participants say the nation must do:

  • Increase federal investment by 10 percent over the next seven years in physical sciences, engineering and math;
  • Double the number of bachelor's degrees awarded to U.S. students in science, math and engineering by 2051 and increase the number of science and math teachers in grades K-12;
  • Reform immigration policies so more foreign-born students may study and eventually work in science, engineering and mathematics.

    The nation is good at responding to crisis. Remember Sputnik that exposed our vulnerability in the space race?

    We went to the moon.

    This crisis may be more serious, but we can soar higher. To do that, though, the nation needs a new mindset about public education.

    It's difficult to get Congress to act when local communities can't agree. Take Decatur as an example.

    The school board wants to start the International Baccalaureate degree program, but opponents say the money IB would cost could best be spent bringing up test scores of all students.

    IB is a feeder system for research and development. It's purpose doesn't compete with the goal of a literate society. Instead, the rest of us need the IB graduates and the scientists, engineers and mathematicians they become if the United States is to maintain world leadership.

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