Thursday, October 05, 2006

The power of positive thinking?

Here is a graphic that should be of interest to anyone who cares what the world will look like 25 years hence, from the October Atlantic, drawn from a report titled "Math and Science Education in a Global Age: What the U.S. Can Learn From China," published by the Asia Society.

The top graph shows scores on a standardized science test by eighth grade students in Australia (left), the USA (right) and several Asian nations. The bottom graph shows the "self-confidence" expressed by the same students in their ability to learn science.

Self-confidence will not be enough to maintain American precedence in science, medicine and technology. We should, of course, be happy to see other formerly impoverished nations enter the ranks of the rich and powerful; American precedence, after all, is not the God-given prerogative assumed by the Christian Right. But as we slip behind in science, more than economic and technological precedence is at stake. So too are the democratic and liberal social values that were the Enlightenment corollary of the scientific way of knowing.