China is governed by scientists, what about the US?

Posted by Radu Tyrsina

Did you know that China is governed by scientists? Yes, both the Chinese President and his Premier are engineers. In addition, 8 out of China’s top 9 government officials are scientists.

Now, let's compare that to the US, where Congress has 535 legislators, with only 22 of them boasting any kind of science or engineering backgrounds.

Basically, scientists govern China because the populace admires them - unlike in the States where celebrities seem to attract the most attention.

This unfortunate fact is also reflected in the way children perceive the subject of science.

For example, a  2010 report conducted by the Programme for International Student Assessment  (PISA) assessed a total of 34 countries and concluded 15-year-old American children performed well below international averages in math.

Yes, they ranked in 25 arithmetic, whereas Chinese students of the same age claimed first place. That should make some people ponder, indeed.

And although the US boasts some of the greatest academic institutions, the doors seem to be locked to American students.

According to Forbes, 70% of PhD engineers in US universities are foreign-born, which prompted Microsoft co- founder Bill Gates to note that "half of this country’s doctoral candidates in computer science come from abroad."

This trend affects the "real world" too. In 2009, more than 50% of US patents were issued to non-US companies, while China replaced America as the number one high-tech exporter.
 
Appalled by this phenomenon, US National Academies authored a manifesto known as the "The Gathering Storm," which demands science and mathematics be promoted in schools to avoid a US tech/economic collapse.

Yes, officials have begun to take some measures to rectify the dire situation, but only time will tell if they are successful or not.
 
Nevertheless, the US is still competent at attracting foreign brains; almost 31% of US top inventors are foreign-born. However, the US could also lose them because of stringent post 9/11 immigration laws.

Despite low scores in PISA assessments, the US clearly does not lack raw brain power. American institutions have some of the brightest minds in the world that can make up for dreary maths and science scores. Moreover, freedom of thought and flexible institutions could provide a starting point for the US to regain its once proud  scientific ranking. 

[Via Singularity Hub