I came across a bizarre post from a self-proclaimed “high-school teacher”. [UPDATE: Mark claimed he “has taught high school students”, not to be a teacher ]

A high schooler’s knowledge of math won’t get you all that far, anyway. It only comes from higher study, and America still has the world’s best system of institutes of higher learning. […] If our goal is to be a scientifically and technologically vital society, the masses are not the place to look.

That argument is stunning given current news. When so many admit “they didn’t fully understand the mortgage papers they were signing”, to say that high-school math won’t get you that far is disconcerting.

At this point, it should be obvious that the educational system works as Babushka matryoshka dolls, where each level requires knowledge and skills acquired in the previous level. So how can we expect poorly skilled high-schoolers to do well in the undergrad and graduate schools?

Anedoctal evidence points out the inability of American students to follow through in American Universities. American students do not have the math skills necessary for a science-and-engineering graduate degree. Not because they are dumb, but because they simply never learned these skills: at UWM, for example,

about 65% of incoming freshman test into courses that cover material they should have mastered at or before their junior year of high school. Only 5% test as ready for calculus.

Foreign students in America

Foreign students in America

Hard evidence comes from the National Science Foundation: in 2005, foreign students on temporary visas earned half or more of doctoral degrees awarded in engineering, mathematics, computer sciences, physics, and economics. Perhaps American universities “prefer” foreign students… but maybe they are just better students regardless of their origin.

Most of postdoc students in US are foreigners

Most of postdoc students in US are foreigners

Noncitizens account for much of the increase in the number of science and engineering postdocs, especially in biological sciences and medical and other life sciences.

The number of science and engineering postdocs with temporary visas at U.S. universities increased from approximately 8,900 in 1985 to 27,000 in 2005. The number of U.S. citizen and permanent resident science and engineering postdocs at these institutions increased more modestly from approximately 13,500 in 1985 to 21,700 in 2005.

So much for a “scientifically and technologically vital society”.

But nothing summarizes better the utter state of denial as this sentence:

Anything that requires a minimal amount of the sort of mathematical, logical, and/or algorithmic thinking employed by a math, science, or computer-type person can now be automated to the point where an intelligent chimpanzee can do it.

Hopefully that doesn’t include teaching in high-school.