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Educating Our Own Citizens

September 2, 2013 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 91, Issue 35

I applaud the cover story “Valuable Imports or Job Competition?” (C&EN, July 8, page 8). Now U.S. society needs to face the cold, hard truth: A nation that has exported its manufacturing and industrial base has no further need of scientists to run and expand what no longer exists.

Regardless of the positive attributes assigned to immigrants—smarter, faster, stronger—most are simply people who do not have jobs but who want one in the U.S. Once, the U.S. was rich in jobs and opportunity, a sprawling industrial giant with far more open positions than scientists to fill them. Then it made sense to import scientists. But like V-8 Cadillacs with fins, those days are long gone.

A few related points: First, the President and Congress need to rid themselves of the delusion that the term STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) professional really applies to people like us at the American Chemical Society. STEM = IT. Period. Silicon Valley oligarchs need plenty of cheap information technology labor to finance their billionaire lifestyles. Somehow, ACS leadership must make this point clear to the nation’s political leadership.

Second, the published data for unemployment among scientists is almost certainly undercounted. People do not like admitting that they have spent years getting a Ph.D. but are now driving a cab. And those who are laid off over the age of 50 may never work again. Medical doctors, certified public accountants, and professional engineers do not have this problem.

Third, as painful as it might be for U.S. universities, in the future, all government-financed study leading to a Ph.D. should be restricted to citizens only. In a time in which any university degree is becoming increasingly out of reach for middle-class families, taxpayers should not be asked to subsidize foreign students studying for graduate degrees. U.S. universities provide little or no support to U.S. citizens who merely wish to study for a bachelor’s degree in engineering, accounting, or nursing—disciplines that still have decent employment prospects.

Charity begins at home. Perhaps spending more resources on educating our own citizens to the B.S. level in fields where jobs still exist would prove just as beneficial to the nation as educating the rest of the world to the graduate level.

Wm Charles L Jamison
Warrenton, Va.



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