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Future of U.S. Manufacturing Begins With Education

George Koo
New America Media / News Analysis
Published: Sunday 29 January 2012
“To demand that religious concepts be taught on equal footing with science – as creationists have done in their fight against Darwinian evolutionists – is to leave young minds poorly prepared for a productive adult life in a technology driven world.”
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In his State of the Union, President Obama stressed the importance of keeping manufacturing in America. The reasoning is that in order to continue to innovate and develop the next generation must-have products, the US needs manufacturing that uses leading edge technology. Nothing wrong with the reasoning, but it may be too late.

A lengthy analysis on why jobs are flowing to China based on the Apple iPhone experience appeared in the New York Times. One of the most important findings of the NYT piece was that America simply no longer has the skill sets to meet Apple’s demands for a high quality, technology product. America has lost the edge to make things.

Advanced manufacturing depends on staffing the factory floor from the production line to the line supervisors with people possessing technical skills. The training programs Obama talked about might serve as temporary Band-Aids that might keep certain production from leaving in the short term. But to maintain a world leadership position, the US will need far more technicians, engineers and scientists than the country is producing.

For many years even before the 2008 financial meltdown, the smartest and brightest of American graduates were pursuing careers on Wall Street rather than careers in science and engineering. Making financial products was easier and more lucrative than manufacturing hard goods.

During the height of Japan bashing in the 1980’s, the late legendary Akio Morita, CEO of Sony, said America was good at moving money from one pocket to the other but not at making anything.

For decades the majority of Americans, most of the so-called 99 Percent, have been getting a basic education inferior to what their parents received. Although politicians readily acknowledge the importance of public education, budget allocations have not followed their lip service. Classrooms have gotten bigger, kids are being taught for fewer hours of the day and there are fewer school days in a year.

To meet the required budget cuts, schools are forced to cut out arts, music and other non-core courses and after school activities. Bare bones programs leave students uninspired as they sleep walk to graduation, not much wiser than when they started. Teachers waved the students through, rather than making sure that the lessons took hold.

Of course, there are pockets of exception. Perhaps 5 percent of Americans can afford to supplement their local school budget and help raise the quality of education for their children, or send their kids to better quality private schools. But that leaves a lot of untrained minds that will be hard pressed to realize their full potential.

In many parts of America, pro-science is regarded as anti-religion, or worse yet, pro-religion is ipso facto considered as antithetical to science. To demand that religious concepts be taught on equal footing with science – as creationists have done in their fight against Darwinian evolutionists – is to leave young minds poorly prepared for a productive adult life in a technology driven world.

Of the 40 people who made it to the final round of the 2012 Intel Science Talent Search, 14 have been identified as ethnic Chinese, 7 have South Asian surnames and 5 others have some other Asian surname. For many years now, more than half of the finalists, high school students with outstanding aptitude in sciences, have been first generation immigrants or sons and daughters of immigrants.

Immigrants from China, India and Russia, in particular, come from cultures with a deep respect for learning and science. They have not been in America long enough for the anti-science mentality to alter their values.

So long as we are not able to turn out enough science and engineering graduates of our own, then President Obama is correct in saying the U.S. needs to welcome foreign students to stay after they graduate and not push them away.

But even if immigrants lead in the development of innovations, as we see in Silicon Valley, America still needs a solid pyramid base of people with skills that would turn innovations into commercial successes. President Obama spoke of keeping and building leading edge manufacturing in the U.S. This is not going to happen unless there is a fundamental shift in the American attitude about the importance of math and science.

ABOUT George Koo

Dr. Koo is a retired international business consultant with advanced degrees in engineering.

The only reason production is

The only reason production is being done in China is because the cost is less. The workers live in barracks and are given room and board plus a small hourly wage. That is not going to happen in America. Unions will insist on fair wages. Remember who and what created the middle class of this country, a fair wage for work done. End of story.....

The assumptions in this

The assumptions in this article are completing bogus. The reason young people don't go into engineering is because they see their elders thrown out of work and replaced by foreign workers; the result of NAFTA, GATT and WTO.

Engineers build things - and when their country builds nothing (80- 90% of everything sold in Wal-Mart is foreign made) they see no opportunity.

In addition when they see factories and technology outsourced and see foreign students, who will work for much less brought in and educated at taxpayer expense, or as cheap foreign labor under the H1B Visa Program, they can see the writing on the wall - no opportunity.

Education is not the answer to the problem, as both the Marxist Educators and Vulture Capitalist would like you to believe, the problem is our Trade Policy.

NAFTA, GATT and WTO were HW Bush Programs that were advocated for and pushed through by Bill Clinton and Al Gore - as part of the AGENDA-21 plan to destroy the American Middle Class and establish World Government.

Wake up America!

Could you please name the

Could you please name the couple of other backward/republican states? And then could you please give some justification for your idotic slander?Thanks.

George Koo is spot on.

George Koo is spot on. Valuing technical education and skills is historically an American strength that has been over-shadowed in the past three decades by other priorities. U. S. social and educational infrastructures urgently need to get back to their roots -- innovation, honesty and hard work. Blaming teachers is blaming the messengers -- they are simply teaching what school districts and parents think is important. Teachers will alter curriculum to conform with U. S. values.

"So long as we are not able

"So long as we are not able to turn out enough science and engineering graduates of our own, then President Obama is correct in saying the U.S. needs to welcome foreign students to stay after they graduate and not push them away."
- this is BS from academia - foreign students are a cash cow for universities and they receive choice undergrad & graduate research opportunities so there is less for the locals

There are plenty of degreed people w/o jobs - w/ degrees in science!
the retail/service sector doesn't use them except in IT
And IT - what an over-rated service/product that is

And high school education?
We need to look at the numbers - the top 10% of Chinese High School students, outnumber ALL US HS students, ALL OF THEM.

We are in for a rude awakening - both on the bottom and all but the top 5%

As long as corporations are

As long as corporations are allowed to sell goods here that are made elsewhere with slave labor, it won't matter if we all have Phd's.

Why is George Koo cooing

Why is George Koo cooing about ed keyed yet to humming production lines?

Sorry, we may rue how U.S. high finance shafted the country in exporting manufacturing jobs, but I was there -- in the army 40 years ago, as Viet translator, among other things -- and I saw how the American belief in conveyor belts of lots of stuff, stuff, stuff -- copters, tanks, bombs, steak-&-beer parties at base, motorbikes & fridges for civilians -- could never win that war.

Mad Scot, above, has better wisdom when he asks for better teachers -- not hamstrung to the insanities of materialism alone, and to the tracked, standardized-tested, departmentalized bubble experts who blindly yet serve that reliance on numbers & money legally-steroided-divorced (Citizens United) from the human.

This guy is all over the

This guy is all over the place. I'd like to know what schools in America (other than a few Christian Academies) teach religious concepts on an equal footing with science. It doesn't happen, not even in Amish schools. By the way the Amish only require eight years of school, but on average the Amish have higher income levels than the average non Amish American. The reason being the Amish still use the one room schoolhouse model where the students are taught according to their level of comprehension not their age. I agree that the problem is passing students to the next level whether they have learned anything or not. Too many teachers enter the profession because they are too incompetent to do anything useful. I personally scraped by with Cs and Ds in math and science until I got to college where I was an honors student simply because the lessons were interesting. The lessons were interesting because the instructors made them interesting. We need to reward outstanding teachers, get rid of poor quality, lazy, uninspiring teachers and reward students who have an aptitude for math and science with scholarships to institutions that will train them for the future. Regardless of what the report about Apple says the reason most of our products are made in Asia is because the Asian people will work twice as many hours for half the pay and live in company owned dormitories. It has nothing to do with the separation of church and state except maybe in Texas and a couple of other backward/republican states.

I got news for ya--Texas is

I got news for ya--Texas is not the only backward Republican state, and religion doesn't have to be taught in school if you get a belly full of it at home.

We need to improve upon the

We need to improve upon the quality of those entering the teaching profession. The ONLY way we can lure the best and brightest is to pay them as professionals, and not allow them to live in fear that their job will be cut the next year. We need to do away with "tenure" - reward the best and replace those that do not do a good job.
We then need to make education important enough to our children - stop "dumbing" America. Make school tough - the kids CAN do it, make them do it. We are losing too much to other countries that place value on education. What do they do? How do they do it? We need to go to a year-around educati0nal system.
If word gets out that manufacturing is an important part of the US economy - which it has not been for years - people will train for those positions, and will fill them with pride so long as they, and what they do, are treated with respect. One advantage to manufacturing leaving our shores, and now being brought back - we should have new, state-of-the-art manufacturing plants to work with..

Getting rid of tenure and

Getting rid of tenure and giving teachers raises are not a panacea. Tenure allows for the "no fear" approach you called for, so taking it away, takes away the job security that is seen as beneficial in the job field. Yet, tenure also can allow for poor teachers to remain in their jobs. Then on top of that, experts have failed to agree upon the best way for evaluating teachers. So it becomes a paradoxical situation. How do we get good teachers in, properly evaluate them, and keep them there? We can try what you speak of, but that requires us raising taxes to pay them more, somehow figure out which ones deserve the raises by using an evaluation system that is highly subjective, and still work within state and federal regulations.

Powerful pragmatic argument

Powerful pragmatic argument for the separation of church and state.

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