U.S. Loosing Tech Leadership?


Heads up, Teachers! This is a must read, even if you are a tech-Luddite. Is this just another Henny Penny cry that the sky is falling? Another time for someone to rag on education? How do we fit into these observations and recommendations?

Charles Cooper of CNet News comments that traveling around Silicon Valley of late, I haven’t found many serious thinkers brimming with Panglossian optimism when they assess the state of the technology industry. … they are deeply concerned about a lack of national resolve to deal with what some liken to a gathering storm. In a world where access to knowledge is easier than ever before, they don’t assume that the U.S. can retain leadership of the very technology industry it invented.

AeA (formerly the American Electronics Association, a trade organization) concludes in a just released report that America’s edge, particularly in science and technology, is increasingly at risk.

The Internet, MRI, the mouse, and GPS – to name a few – were born from federally sponsored research. That R&D funding has declined over the last decade and a half and the priority has shifted to life sciences.

China graduates almost four times as many engineers as the United States.

One out of five scientists and engineers in the United States are foreign born.

The U.S. K-12 system does not provide the math and science skills necessary for students to compete in the 21st century workforce.

The U.S. higher education system cannot produce enough scientists and engineers to support the growth of the high-tech industry that is crucial to economic prosperity.

Many of the findings in this report may sound familiar, even obvious; others may seem surprising. Each of the variables discussed within the report – when taken in isolation – do not necessarily constitute a crisis. It is their interrelationship that makes the more compelling case that the status quo is unsustainable.

Report authors hope that by examining the cumulative effect, not just the discrete statistics, any reasonable person will see the need to act.

Hmm, on a one-to-ten scale, what do your students think about these kinds of reports and comments? How important do teachers think these observations and recommendations are for individual initiative and responsibility of teachers?

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Robert Heiny
Robert W. Heiny, Ph.D. is a retired professor, social scientist, and business partner with previous academic appointments as a public school classroom teacher, senior faculty, or senior research member, and administrator. Appointments included at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Peabody College and the Kennedy Center now of Vanderbilt University; and Brandeis University. Dr. Heiny also served as Director of the Montana Center on Disabilities. His peer reviewed contributions to education include publication in [I]The Encyclopedia of Education [/I](1971), and in professional journals and conferences. He served s an expert reviewer of proposals to USOE, and on a team that wrote plans for 12 state-wide and multistate special education and preschools programs. He currently writes user guides for educators and learners as well as columns for [I]TuxReports[/I].com.


  1. I am an engineer, born in the US, and feel that I am just one of a handful. We are in a very tough situation in this country

  2. Who makes up this stuff about personnel shortages? No engineer or science amjor I know of can get a job anywhere. There has never been a time when businesses couldn’t get talent, only that they had to ante up a little bit more. I am an electrical engineer and licensed professional engineer and Cisco certified, and many other things. My experience has been that when hiring managers complain that there aren’t enough qualified people out there, what they mean is that instead of 8 or 9 applicants for a single position they are down to 3 or 4. And they have to be young with straight A’s and willing to work 60 plus hours a week for small wages. The job goes to India as soon as possible anyway. To major in engineering today is a very stupid thing to do, unfortunately, but American business typically couldn’t care less about people. When consumers are out of work meaning fewer to buy their Chinese made products at any cost, then the next great depression many are predicting will come down on us. We need isolationism, protectionism, and anti-globalization since we cannot possibly compete with China, Inc. where government subsidizes all their industries. The global playing field is not level. If you have a more optimistic story please share…

  3. This is indeed a problem, but only one of many. The U.S. is also sorely losing any leadership role in developing those technologies for the the classroom. Obviously, blogs such as this one show that there is hope that new technologies will filter into the hands of academics, but the average instructor is still lost in the world of overhead projectors, whether they are K-12 or Higher Ed.

  4. Thanks for your comments people. I wish I knew an answer to the issue of getting engineers and companies together. I’m greatly impressed with engineers who work on the edge of knowledge, those who create the proof of concept as well as those who refine those proofs into mass market products. I also respect those educators in about 150 schools and college/universities who use individual initiative to show the value of Tablet PCs and other new technologies by using them in their work. Keep up the good work. Now,who’s coming up with the next idea for an even more effective learning tool for us teachers to use?