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Local Book Notes: Stemming STEM

Emanuel Announces Citywide STEM Strategy To Triple The Number Of Students With STEM Credentials By 2018.

"Pronouncements like the following have become common currency: 'The United States is falling behind in a global race for talent that will determine the country's future prosperity, power, and security.' In Falling Behind?, Michael Teitelbaum argues that alarms like this one, which he quotes, are not only overblown but are often sounded by people who do not disclose their motives," Andrew Hacker writes for the New York Review of Books.

"Teitelbaum vehemently denies that we are lagging in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, now commonly abbreviated as STEM. Still, he writes that there are facts to be faced:

  • In less than 15 years, China has moved from 14th place to second place in published research articles.
  • General Electric has now located the majority of its R&D personnel outside the United States.
  • Only four of the top ten companies receiving United States patents last year were United States companies.
  • The United States ranks 27th among developed nations in the proportion of college students receiving undergraduate degrees in science or engineering.

"A recurring complaint is that not enough of our young people and adults have the kinds of competence the coming century will require, largely because not nearly enough are choosing careers that require the skills of STEM. A decade ago, the Business Roundtable was urging that we 'double the number of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics graduates with bachelor's degrees by 2015.' We're now at that year, but the number of degrees awarded in those fields has barely budged. More recently, a panel appointed by President Obama asked for another ten-year effort, this time to add 'one million additional college graduates with degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.' Where the missile race was measured by numbers of warheads, now we hear of a race to award more diplomas.

"Contrary to such alarmist demands, Falling Behind? makes a convincing case that even now the U.S. has all the high-tech brains and bodies it needs, or at least that the economy can absorb. Teitelbaum points out that 'U.S. higher education routinely awards more degrees in science and engineering than can be employed in science and engineering occupations.' Recent reports reinforce his claim. A 2014 study by the National Science Board found that of 19.5 million holders of degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, only 5.4 million were working in those fields, and a good question is what they do instead. The Center for Economic Policy and Research, tracing graduates from 2010 through 2014, discovered that 28 percent of engineers and 38 percent of computer scientists were either unemployed or holding jobs that did not need their training.

"Teitelbaum stresses a fact of the labor market: contrary to the warnings from a variety of panels and roundtables, public and private employers who might hire STEM workers have not been creating enough positions for all the people currently being trained to fill them. Take physics, a quintessential STEM science. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in its latest Occupational Outlook Handbook, forecasts that by 2022 the economy will have 22,700 nonacademic openings for physicists. Yet during the preceding decade 49,700 people will have graduated with physics degrees. The anomaly is that those urging students toward STEM studies are not pressing employers to ensure that the jobs will be there. And as we shall see, the employers often turn to foreign workers for the jobs they have to fill."

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From the Beachwood vault:

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Shattering A Lost Cause Myth
"On May 25, 1863, after driving the Confederate army into defensive lines surrounding Vicksburg, Mississippi, Union major general Ulysses S. Grant and his Army of the Tennessee laid siege to the fortress city," SIU Press says of Justin Solonick's Engineering Victory.

"With no reinforcements and dwindling supplies, the Army of Vicksburg finally surrendered on July 4, yielding command of the Mississippi River to Union forces and effectively severing the Confederacy.

"This is the first detailed study of how Grant's Midwesterners serving in the Army of the Tennessee engineered the Siege of Vicksburg. It shatters the Lost Cause myth that Vicksburg's Confederate garrison surrendered due to lack of provisions. Instead of being starved out, Solonick explains, the Confederates were dug out.

"After opening with a sophisticated examination of nineteenth-century military engineering and the history of siege craft, Solonick discusses the stages of the Vicksburg siege and the implements and tactics Grant's soldiers used to achieve victory.

"As Solonick shows, though Grant lacked sufficient professional engineers to organize a traditional siege - an offensive tactic characterized by cutting the enemy's communication lines and digging forward-moving approach trenches - the few engineers available, when possible, gave Union troops a crash course in military engineering.

"Ingenious Midwestern soldiers, in turn, creatively applied engineering maxims to the situation at Vicksburg, demonstrating a remarkable ability to adapt in the face of adversity.

"When instruction and oversight were not possible, the common soldiers improvised. Solonick concludes with a description of the surrender of Vicksburg, an analysis of the siege's effect on the outcome of the Civil War, and a discussion of its significance in Western military history."

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Chicago Book Haul
Quimby's, Myopic, After-Words.

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See also:
* Feminist Book Lover's YouTube channel.

* Feminist Book Lover on Tumblr.

* Feminist Book Lover On Twitter.

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Comments welcome.



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Posted on August 20, 2015


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BOOKS - The Randomness Of Harvard Admissions.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Public Lands Matter.


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