Why is there a decline in interest in science majors among US citizens?

In summary, the National Science Board has reported a decline in the number of U.S. citizens studying to become scientists and engineers, despite the increasing demand for jobs in these fields. This is due to various factors such as the way science is taught in schools, the societal mindset towards science careers, and the perceived difficulty of these fields. Additionally, there has been a decrease in the intellectual quality of the gene pool, which may also contribute to this decline. However, efforts are being made to improve science education and motivate students to pursue these challenging but rewarding career paths.

Is this decline a result of result of decline of people's interest in science?


  • Total voters
    29
  • #1
PhysMaster
32
0
Decline in the number of US Citizens interested in Science Majors! Why?

The National Science Board warned of a “troubling decline” in the number of U.S. citizens studying to become scientists and engineers, even as the number of jobs requiring science and engineering training grows.
Why is this happening?
What can happen as a result of this?
 
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  • #2
Why it's happening is because science isn't taught in school. And when it is, they try to force-feed students the knowledge instead of making them curious about it. After all, science has advanced because people were curious about the natural world, so why not teach it that way?

What can happen as a result of this? More $$ for me. :D
 
  • #3
The title of your thread is misleading. There isn't a decline in Science jobs, just a decline in the number of US-born citizens interested in majoring in science.

Zz.
 
  • #4
ZapperZ said:
The title of your thread is misleading. There isn't a decline in Science jobs, just a decline in the number of US-born citizens interested in majoring in science.

Zz.

Exactly, i was thinking the same thing here. Besides, we have the same problem out here in Europe as well.

This poll is worthless.

marlon
 
  • #5
I don't mind. This just means more jobs for me.
 
  • #6
While it means more jobs for the rest of us, it also means a larger amount of ignorance in the general populace.

Then again, it also means more money for me.
Yay!
 
  • #7
it also means a future where there is less government funding for the sciences.
 
  • #8
Sorry for the misleading title. I've changed it now.

But why is this happening? Is it because other fields seem to be more beneficial?
 
  • #9
Science is hard.
http://www.theonion.com/content/node/38575
"I guess there's cool stuff about science," Watanabe continued, "like space travel and bombs. But that stuff is so hard, it's honestly not even worth the effort."
 
  • #10
Yay, it means there is a spot for me to get a job somewhere then :D
 
  • #11
Of course it's hard, but that is what makes it rewarding. Every equation I solve gets me a step closer to understanding the world. Reward enough for me!
 
  • #12
Do you want the cold, honest answer?

It's because of the shrinking intellectual quality of the gene pool. Stupid people keep having children, and they keep having more children than smart people.
 
  • #13
plum said:
Do you want the cold, honest answer?

It's because of the shrinking intellectual quality of the gene pool. Stupid people keep having children, and they keep having more children than smart people.

Do you have any data to support this claim?
 
  • #14
ZapperZ said:
The title of your thread is misleading. There isn't a decline in Science jobs, just a decline in the number of US-born citizens interested in majoring in science.
One of my goals is to change that!

I think for many students, they are turned off from math and science because it requires hard work, but more than that, I think in general, the quality of the education in math and science is rather poor. If one falls behind because one is not exposed to necessary concepts, one may become discouraged. What would have been relatively easy with appropriate preparation because difficult or overwhelming.

I know we have exceptionally good teachers, but they seem few and far between. We need to improve math and science education, and support our excellent teachers.

And we need students who are motivated and willing to accept challenges.
 
  • #15
Math Is Hard said:
Do you have any data to support this claim?


Go to

http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/nsb0407/

for Statement made by National Science Foundation.
 
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  • #16
PhysMaster said:
Go to

http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/nsb0407/

for Statement made by National Science Foundation.

Thank you, PhysMaster. But I was responding specifically to plum, and there is nothing in the link you provided that backs up his/her statement.
 
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  • #17
In a way, this is good news for me xD less competition when i apply for college

As a High School freshman, I can persionally say that the kids just aren't interested. The problem is partially in the way that it is taught, and in the way society works today.

Science teachers in the eyes of most of my peers at other schools, think of science class and I know from experience that the first thing that comes to mind for them is sitting in a dull room while an ill-prepared teacher lectures them for well over an hour as the kids fall asleep. If this is your only real experience of being exposed to science, you will probably want to choose a career that has nothing to do with facts.

Second of all is the mindset of society. Kids today peer into their future, and they want to see something easy and full of money. I strongly doubt that a fourth grader will be staring at a charts of starting wages when he first stops to consider which job gets a lot of money. And really, when you think of the job market, the first thing that comes to mind isn't engineer. The people who dream of becoming engineers are almost always directly related to an engineer, because they know about engineering from personal experience.

In 'tv society,' the only person who dreams of growing up to be an engineer is the pocket protector styling kid with braces and thick rimmed glasses who talks to everyone in a nasally voice and must use an inhaler while talking to girls. Thats not exactly the image we should be giving our little kids about careers in science.
 
  • #18
PhysMaster said:
Go to

http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/nsb0407/

for Statement made by National Science Foundation.

How does this answer the question that MIH is asking? The NSF, of all things, never ever does any survey on "intelligence". Please double check what claim MIH was asking plum to support.

Zz.
 
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  • #19
Sorry, I don't have anything to back up my claim, but if I did it could easily be criticized from various angles (which is why such sensitive studies are seldom if ever done).

The basic facts as I see them are this: Economic class is never a measure of intelligence, but on a broad level it is an indication of it. Not all that rich people are smart, but good income generally assures good diet, positive learning environments, and good education. In developed countries, the middle class is shrinking due to things like outsourcing, and class divisions are becoming more apparent. If you look at the kind of families where most children are being born, it is definitely on the lower not the upper end of the income spectrum. If you look at poorer nations, the birth rate is downright out of control. The average age in a typical African country, for example, might be 25. And those kids aren't dumber because they're black; they're dumber because they grow up malnourished.

Anyways, this is a complex and sensitive topic about which I'm admittedly ignorant, although I do find it interesting.
 
  • #20
plum said:
Sorry, I don't have anything to back up my claim, but if I did it could easily be criticized from various angles (which is why such sensitive studies are seldom if ever done).

The basic facts as I see them are this: Economic class is never a measure of intelligence, but on a broad level it is an indication of it. Not all that rich people are smart, but good income generally assures good diet, positive learning environments, and good education. In developed countries, the middle class is shrinking due to things like outsourcing, and class divisions are becoming more apparent. If you look at the kind of families where most children are being born, it is definitely on the lower not the upper end of the income spectrum. If you look at poorer nations, the birth rate is downright out of control. The average age in a typical African country, for example, might be 25. And those kids aren't dumber because they're black; they're dumber because they grow up malnourished.

Anyways, this is a complex and sensitive topic about which I'm admittedly ignorant, although I do find it interesting.

If there is TWO things that I wish people would LEARN out of being on PF, they would be to examine how one draws up a conclusion and to pay attention to the SOURCE of information. You have a flaw in the former, and none for the latter.

You have just admitted to not having anything valid to draw up such a conclusion, yet you freely state such a thing as if it is a fact. It isn't. Your anecdotal observation cannot even be verified by anything. In fact, I can easily counter it by pointing to you that there are many extremely poor vietnamese immigrants that came to the US with barely the clothes on their backs. They certainly did not have all the characteristics of a better income family that you described. But yet, the percentage of success of the children from these immigrants are unbelievable. They would be a group of people that I could easily point to as an example where poverty does not have any correlation to "intelligence" or the ability to do science.

This subject is off topic for this particular thread. It is why I find it puzzling why you brought it up in the first place, especially when you have no valid data to support it. If you wish to debate such an issue, please use the Social Science forum.

Zz.
 
  • #21
A lack of scientific evidence doesn't mean my assertion is incorrect. Since it is on such a broad scale, statistical data is just too specific, and there will always be exceptions to the rule. I just know it; I know it in my bones, I feel it in the air, that we as a species are getting dumber and dumber.
 
  • #22
plum said:
I just know it; I know it in my bones, I feel it in the air, that we as a species are getting dumber and dumber.
Umm, more like one 'believes'. Without testability or a valid scientific approach, or in the absence of evidence, one cannot 'know'.

Perhaps it is that many do not develop their full potential.

We continue to make discoveries and increase our knowledge about the world around us. However, we as a culture, do seem to invest a lot of energy and resources in entertainment and mindless diversions - e.g. sports, video games, reality shows, . . . .
 
  • #23
Astronuc said:
And we need students who are motivated and willing to accept challenges.

Absolutely, students today have been coddled into thinking that they are special, smart, etc... When they get into the real world, they find out that they are not half as smart as they have been lead to believe and they start to find out that the world is a cruel, cruel place and very unforgiving. My son has always had to work hard in some subjects, others came easy, but his friends are all freaking out because they are getting B's and C's in school right now and it is killing their self esteem and they are all depressed. Students today are not challenged, either at the high school or college levels, when I taught in a community college, the grade points went down, but their understanding went up.
 
  • #24
Dr Transport said:
Absolutely, students today have been coddled into thinking that they are special, smart, etc... When they get into the real world, they find out that they are not half as smart as they have been lead to believe and they start to find out that the world is a cruel, cruel place and very unforgiving. My son has always had to work hard in some subjects, others came easy, but his friends are all freaking out because they are getting B's and C's in school right now and it is killing their self esteem and they are all depressed. Students today are not challenged, either at the high school or college levels, when I taught in a community college, the grade points went down, but their understanding went up.
That's very much my observation. How do we change that?

We are pushing the limits of technology and we need bright minds that understand challenging and complex problems! The answers are not in the back of the book!
 
  • #25
I think another aspect to all of this is that there are a lot of professions out there that get a lot of exposure for doing, what I would call, mindless/non-technical work and getting large amounts of money for it. Why work hard at school and go to an even tougher college if I can party my way through, get C's and then come out and get a better paying job? I think most of the kids in the US would be happiest if the entire econiomy was based solely on merchandising, retail and restaurants.

I am trying not to generalize too much but this is tough.
 
  • #26
Astronuc said:
That's very much my observation. How do we change that?

We are pushing the limits of technology and we need bright minds that understand challenging and complex problems! The answers are not in the back of the book!

First of all, we slap them hard from the time they are little in school, flunk a few and make them work for C's and B's. Do not advance them socially if they can't hack it. Limit their exposure to the internet, it is a wonderful place to find information, but if you search long enough, you don't need to think about your homework, someone has already done it for you. Forums like this are great, we make them think and post their thought processes online for all to see and critique, but if I go out and look long enough, I'll find almost every Jackson's E&M problem solved as well as a host of other texts.

As for the answer is in the back of the book mentality, how do you know it is correct? You have to have some knowledge of the subject and can be able to tell the good from the bad.

FredGarvin said:
I think another aspect to all of this is that there are a lot of professions out there that get a lot of exposure for doing, what I would call, mindless/non-technical work and getting large amounts of money for it. Why work hard at school and go to an even tougher college if I can party my way through, get C's and then come out and get a better paying job? I think most of the kids in the US would be happiest if the entire econiomy was based solely on merchandising, retail and restaurants.

I don't know how to counter this, the dot-com bubble is a perfect example. People who are not all that smart technically rode the stock market to highs and made butt-loads of $$$, I am not against it, I made gobs of cash in my 401K and other investments at the same time, but one group of over zealous engineers in a company will get the corporation banned from bidding on contracts, but a bunch of stock brokers gone awry only gets fined and they are back at work the next day.


Who knows how to fix this, I sure don't have all the answers, probably don't have any, my opinion os as good as anyone elses...
 
  • #27
Unfortunately I agree with Ki Man, the stuff is badly taught, aND UNREMUNerative compared with other easier fields of study.

When a colleague and I took time off fro our research to teach high school kids math, we hada large fraction of them go into math and even get PhD's, some becoming well known researchers.

our reward was to have our grant terminated for diminution in research publications that year. and for thiose who keep their interest, and go on to profesional status, even the best researchers in pure math earn less than smart people with BA's in other fields today.

even at our university, the comparative measure of quality of a department is blatantly the total number of research gran t dollars generated. this tilts the scale completely in favor of chemistry, physics, and stat, and comp sci, even in the hard sciences, over math.

the business school of course is never facing a shortage of candidates for majors. as for the reimbursement level for high school math teachers, to interest people like Ki Man, that is out of the question for someone like me, at least until I retire. maybe someone could fund a progrm for retried professionals to return to high school, but the work load would have to be adjusted from the killer one they have there, plus all the behavior problems.

as for reaching the wider populace, this forum does a wonderful job of beign a sort of underground source of information, some of which coems from active researchers and professionals. this sort of thing does not exist at the university level in the us. to my knowledge, few people in my department except those running the high school math contest, have much contact with the public.

another good development is the existence of websites with frely downloadable notyes, but this does not reach the unsophisticated public i suspect. of course it would be a great situation fora ramanujam to be born into. anyone today can have access to the best math texts for free if he/she wants them.
 
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  • #28
I think that one would learn better from hardcopies of textbooks, rather than using the internet. Isn't it annoying to read books and notes online?
 
  • #29
courtrigrad said:
I think that one would learn better from hardcopies of textbooks, rather than using the internet. Isn't it annoying to read books and notes online?

I'm old, my eyes are going, and a full page on my screen is too small for me to read, even with my glasses (OK, I'm not that old (41) but you get my drift). There is something to be said about flipping back and forth in a book, tabbing pages (yes, post-it tabs are a wonderfull thing) and writing in the margin to fill in steps (Miss Langworthy forgive me). I like to save trees as much as anyone, but I love my paper texts and hate to read things from a .pdf file. A well loved book is one that has coffee stains on the end, dirt on the pages because the oils from your fingers attracts it and yes, a busted binding. My copy of Jackson is well worn, so is my Arfkin, and my CRC Math Handbook opens to the pages on integration without my touching it.
 
  • #30
It is my personal, uninformed and unreliable opinion that the problem with physical sciences is that you need a very long, hard, intense phase of investment of time, sweat and effort before one can even see it starting to pay.
In former ("good old") times, this kind of attitude was strongly encouraged in the educational world (read, school), but this seems to be gone now.

It seems that up to the age, of say, 16 years, there doesn't seem to be any pushing anymore to acquire, through long, hard work, the necessary skills of logical thinking, rigorous mathematics, precise and accurate work and so on. Most educational activities seem to center on "quick-pay-off" activities, where "real life benefits" must be manifest after a semester at most. Everything must be immediately "application-oriented" and one doesn't take much time anymore to devellop sometimes boring but foundational matters if the take a long time to acquire (take, latin, or grammar, or several more abstract parts of elementary mathematics: all things which are on a decline). The "rapid-return-on-investment" seems to be the killer of the physical sciences in my opinion.
 
  • #31
plum said:
A lack of scientific evidence doesn't mean my assertion is incorrect. Since it is on such a broad scale, statistical data is just too specific, and there will always be exceptions to the rule. I just know it; I know it in my bones, I feel it in the air, that we as a species are getting dumber and dumber.

Then you can't deny my assertion either, and you can't falsify it based on anything, because *I* can feel it in my bones that you point of view is wrong.

If you think that you can get by with baseless statements on here, you have found the wrong forum.

Zz.
 
  • #32
I already explained why any statistical data in support of my argument would be woefully incomplete and hence, pointless. If someone took it on as a Phd thesis, it would still be incomplete because there would be too many factors involved. I suppose it could be the subject of a book, but the book would only invite endless criticism on multiple fronts.

Despite all this, it remains in my opinion a)true and b)worth pointing out.
 
  • #33
You have hijacked this thread as a vehicle for your unsupported prejudice, which has nothing to do with the OP. Consider this as your only warning to not continue with such practice.

Zz.
 
  • #34
Plum, you're probably not alone in strongly believing that society in the US in general is becoming progressively less intelligent, due to "morons" propagating themselves in the gene pool. You should probably read upon past popularizations of such concepts by such people as Henry Goddard to understand the consequences of seriously taking up such views.

Dr. Transport's quote
Absolutely, students today have been coddled into thinking that they are special, smart, etc

Yes, I believe that TV, is one of the main causal factors for increasing children's excitement tendency and a disinterest in science. There's too much information to sort out while watching TV, they don't learn anything, they are fascinated by the "magic" that they see on TV, and to them science is just some form of "magic"; there's no real understanding of what it means, and they don't want to make themselves extral "special" by becoming a scientist. Children have become an economic commodity.

Also, FredGarvin has made a valid point in illustrating just how practical the relatively more ambitious our youngsters have become. While TV serves to constantly brainwash some, others have become smarter and adhere to a more realistic route of things. With the past generation it was relatively easier to inspire the younger generation, and "a sense
of what is good and just" however, they have become "too smart" for all of this. The latter aspect probably has a good instinctual basis to it, however, it limits just how far they can really go in becoming smarter. It becomes more violent manner of intelligence. They just don't want to be duped.
 
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  • #35
Vanesch, FredGarvin and Astronuc have all made good points on this suubject. I agree with ZapperZ that plum has hijacked this thread to spread unsubstantiated truths.

We need to get back on subject or we will loose what decent discussion we have been having up to now.
 

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