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Thousands of the world’s best athletes are at the Olympiad in
Australia right now. The Olympic motto is “Swifter, Higher, Stronger.”
The athletes are not in Australia because that is the best place on
Earth to run, or jump or throw things. Nor because the best runners,
jumpers and throwers are Australians. The best athletes in the world
are in Australia right now simply because, if you want to compete
against the best, you’ll find them, this week, in Australia.
If the Olympic Committee had decided to have the Olympiad in Nepal,
instead, then that’s where all of the world’s best athletes would be.
And surely the Sherpas would realize that the world’s best sprinters had
not come to Nepal because Nepal is where the best sprinters already
reside or because Nepal is the best place in the world to sprint. In
fact, for most sprinters — excepting the Sherpas — Nepal is about the
worst place to sprint.
Yet, U.S. educators — don’t laugh — the folks that run our glorious
public school educational (ha-ha) system seem to think that the reason
the world’s best and brightest have flocked for several decades to our
graduate schools, particularly in science and engineering, is because
the rest of the world recognizes how superior the products of the U.S.
educational (ha-ha) system really are. That is, the educators
apparently think that the rest of the best and the brightest come here
because this is where the best and brightest — trained by U.S.
educators — already are. But, if U.S.-born scientists and engineers
are among the best and brightest, it is in spite of the U.S. educational
system rather than because of it.
We had depended heavily during WWII on foreign-born scientists to
help us not only with the atomic bomb but also with radar and other
war-winning technologies. After the war, many of these émigrés stayed
here and helped establish advanced degree programs in science and
engineering at many state universities where none had existed before.
When we asked U.S. universities to help us win the Cold War, by turning
out orders of magnitude more scientists and engineers than we had before
WWII, these émigrés began to recruit grad students from the “old
country” because that is where many qualified undergrads were. That is,
the U.S. public schools have never turned out enough high school
graduates that were either qualified or inclined to seek collegiate
degrees in science and engineering. And since there were never enough
well qualified U.S.-born college grads, there were even fewer
well-qualified U.S.-born grad students.
Many Americans never learn how laughable our public school
educational system really is. Those who do learn usually learn it upon
entering grad school, particularly in science and engineering. There,
they encounter, usually for the first time, students from foreign
countries, students who have not had the “benefit” of a U.S. public
school education. It is, for most Americans, a rude awakening.
For at least the last 30 years, about half of all Ph.D.’s awarded by
U.S. universities in science and engineering have been to foreigners,
many of them — like Wen Ho Lee — barely able to speak English.
Furthermore, there is reason to believe that many U.S. universities have
some sort of quota system, by which lesser-qualified, U.S.-born students
are favored for admission — and who knows what else — over foreigners.
Were it not for quotas, it is conceivable that almost all the best and
brightest competing with each other in our grad schools would be
Furthermore, having proved themselves to be the best and brightest,
the foreigners frequently stay in this country after getting their
doctorates. After all, if a Fiji Islander manages to get a Ph.D. in
nuclear engineering at Texas A&M, there is really not a whole lot he can
do with that diploma in Fiji except maybe thatch his hut with it.
Just as thoroughbred racing improves the breed, so does competition
improve the quality of those awarded advanced degrees. In physics, for
example, at the Cold War peak, only about half the grad students
admitted to U.S. Ph.D. programs ever got the Ph.D. — and it took, on
average, those that got it six years to get it. The competition is
fierce. And graduates of the U.S. public school system are at a severe
Our educational system has failed to provide an environment wherein
smart kids can improve themselves by competing with other smart kids.
You probably have to be a knee-jerk liberal to believe that any dolt is
capable of understanding quantum mechanics or that a dwarf is capable of
setting a new world record in the high jump. The knee-jerk liberal
solution to the dwarf problem is to hold a special Olympics for dwarfs
only. The knee-jerk liberals don’t have a solution to the dolt problem
because they refuse to admit that there is a dolt problem.
The premise of the U.S. educators is that the overwhelming majority
of Americans don’t want their kids to even know, themselves, that
they’re smarter or dumber than most of their peers. And the best way to
keep that knowledge secret is to not ever let them compete against each
other. No Olympic trials for smart kids.
(Two of the brightest guys who ever attended Cal Tech were the
brothers Panofsky. One was called Smart Panofsky and the other Dumb
Panofsky. It seems Dumb Panofsky once got a “B” in a course at a time
when even a “C” at Cal Tech was a very good grade. So, even at Cal
Tech, they have a way of finding out who is smart and who is dumb. We
should all be so dumb as Dumb Panofsky.)
Global Al and the teachers’ unions want the students and parents to
believe that it doesn’t really matter, anyway, whether a kid is smart of
dumb. (It’s all right for them to learn they’re either faster than a
speeding bullet or slow as molasses afoot.) All that matters is
“self-esteem.” If you come out of their educational system chock full
of self-esteem, then, in their book, they’ve been successful. But, like
the self-confident gunfighter, Wilson, in the movie “Shane,” your last
thought may be, as was his, that you’re not as good as you thought you
But now, thanks to the Internet Al Gore invented, it may not matter,
soon, what a joke (ha-ha) our public schools really are. They may soon
be, if they aren’t already, irrelevant. It will soon be a lot easier
for U.S.-born Americans to get into U.S. undergraduate and graduate
schools if they want to. There may even be a lot of empty slots, for
First, smart U.S.-kids are discovering that in the Information Age
they don’t really need to go to college. The Internet is where it’s at,
not being brainwashed at some $25K-per-year Marxist citadel. As high
school was a waste of their time, so would college be. After all, who
is the richest kid in the world? Bill Gates, the nerd who decided in
the early ’70s that college was a waste of his time. Did you know that
the market valuation of Microsoft — which doesn’t manufacture anything
and could as easily be in Fiji or Nepal as Seattle — is more than four
times that of the entire U.S. defense industry?
Second, if you want to find out how you stack up against the best and
brightest, thanks to the Internet, you don’t have to come to this
country any more. You can run your Microsoft wannabe start-up right out
of your humble abode in Nepal or Fiji and compete, internationally,
simply by logging on to the Internet.
Now, if you want to compete via the Internet, it helps if you can
read and write English. But a very large fraction of the really smart
people in the world already do. Virtually all young Russian scientists
and engineers do. There are about a billion people in India and English
is (or was) their official language. It ought to be somewhat sobering
to realize that there are more really smart people in India than there
are people, smart or otherwise, in the United States.
When Al Gore brags about his Internet creating more than 10 million
jobs in the next few years, his estimate — depending upon what Al means
by a “job” — is about an order of magnitude too low. But, what Al
doesn’t tell you (and he may not have realized yet himself) is that in
this century very few smart people are going to have 9-to-5 jobs, in the
traditional sense, and most of those nontraditional jobs that are going
to be created are not going to go to Americans. Particularly if someone
doesn’t do something soon about our increasingly irrelevant educational