I just finished reading an article on Tech Crunch, and felt the need to comment. It is "They Ain't Making Any More of Them: The Great Engineering Shortage of 2012".

If you didn't read the article, how dare you, the basic gist is that there is a great need for engineers and computer science majors, yet we graduated fewer this year than we did in 1984. In fact, we graduated more visual and performing arts majors than computer science, math, and chemical engineering majors combined. The author hilariously dubs this the generation of "American Idols and So You Think You Can Dancers".

At first I couldn't believe it. I thought there were more computer science majors than before, but then I remembered that 2011 was the first year that the number of computer science incoming freshman at Georgia Tech was greater than the year before. Ever since the dot-com bust, enrollment had been at a steady decline. This should surprise anyone, because technology is literally the future. Every day we see more and more people worldwide on the internet. Every day more and more phones are sold. In many developing countries, more people have smartphones than computers. They manage their entire lives through them, even their banking.

In recent years it has seemed as though the United States has gravitated towards easy fame. The abundance of reality tv and stars famous only for how rich they are has pervaded the media. Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton, Snooki, etc are all examples of misplaced fame and reverence. Not to mention the belief in instant wealth and fame that can be had on American Idol, The Voice, So You Think You Can Dance, The X Factor, America's Got Talent, etc.

Oddly, technology has the stories of fame and fortune, but they seem to be ignored. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Mark Zuckerburg, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and more. Perhaps these just aren't as appealing. They weren't overnight successes (neither are the singers or dancers), but they appear (whether true or not) to require more work than getting on a tv show and being told how great you are.

I agree with the John Bischke, 20-somethings have either lost or don't have the concept of long term value. I think the idea should be taken a step further and extended to all people. Studies show that when given the choice between a short term gain, and a long term gain that is unequivocally worth more, people choose the short term gain. We evolved to prefer short term gains. As a society, we have to overcome this.

The big question is how to move past the instinct of short term gains. I think the only way is education. We have to start educating our children to analyze two options effectively. The long term gain is not always the best choice, but it almost always is. By doing so, we will raise a generation of people that make better decisions. Then they will raise a generation that makes even better decisions. The goal is growth and perpetual motion towards our ideals.

Bischke seems to come to a similar conclusion, but thinks that sites like Code Academy and Code Lesson are enough for people to learn the skills needed. Yet earlier in his article, he says that our current education system leaves holes in knowledge that compound upon themselves. If you have such a scattering of missing knowledge, how can you teach yourself skills relying on that knowledge. The change has to come earlier and be consistent.

We must focus on making sure all students have a good education. One without the missing fundamentals we get now. We need to stop discouraging female students from the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) disciplines. There is a wealth of research on how women are discouraged from a young age through college. We're losing half of the population to baseless gender claims. Beyond that, the only way we even measure students is through testing.

Testing is pointless. You can teach someone to pass a test. If you have the money Kaplan can teach your high school student how to do better on the SAT. They don't make the student any smarter, they just help them understand how to beat the test. Further, by having funding based on the tests, you just end up with cheating scandals. Just look at the Atlanta Public School system. It's not just there either. There are confirmed cheating cases in 30 states and DC.

The answer has to be better education. We can do this through teaching problem solving instead of test taking. Critical thinking instead of rote memorization. Creativity instead of conformity. Children want to learn, it's only when adults tell them to sit down and do as they're told that they stop.
AuthorMichael Cantrell
CategoriesRandom Thoughts