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2.11.2004

Nicholas Kristof weighs in on outsourcing and the inadequacy of science education in the US 

There's a fine article by Nicholas Kristof in today's New York Times on outsourcing and on how other countries are kicking our butts in high school mathematics and science education.

I do have a couple minor quibbles with the article, though:

1. I think he's right that our society values the sciences less than it values the humanities, but I think the bigger problem is that teachers and schools are fighting the problem of students not graduating by moving the goalposts, i.e. dumbing down class and graduation requirements. This is an even bigger problem for talented students in low-income families; they may not be able to afford the supplementary education (summer school, programs for the gifted, etc.) that richer families can afford.

2. Kristof notes that Chinese high school students score in the highest percentile of the math portion of the GRE because the SAT isn't offered. I'm not sure if he's talking about the mathematics subject GRE, taken by prospective mathematics grad students, or the quantitative section of the general GRE, taken by all prospective graduate students. I'd bet it's the latter though, since he's comparing it to the SAT.

It should be noted that the quantitative portion of the general GRE is essentially identical to the math portion of the SAT. This makes the Chinese high school kids' accomplishments seem less impressive, but it also highlights the fact that the Education Testing Service and colleges alike do not place a premium on the learning of mathematics in college. No graduate student should be content with a US high school-level mathematics education.

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