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    #249110 - 08/22/21 11:46 AM US Schools Prioritize Diversity Over Merit
    Bostonian Offline
    Member

    Registered: 02/14/10
    Posts: 2625
    Loc: MA
    As US Schools Prioritize Diversity Over Merit, China Is Becoming the World’s STEM Leader
    by Percy Deift, Svetlana Jitomirskaya, and Sergiu Klainerman
    Quillette
    19 Aug 2021

    All three of us are mathematicians who came to the United States as young immigrants, having been attracted by the unmatched quality and openness of American universities. We came, as many others before and after, with nothing more than a good education and a strong desire to succeed. As David Hilbert famously said, “Mathematics knows no races or geographic boundaries; for mathematics, the cultural world is one country.” Having built our careers in US academia, we are proud to call ourselves American mathematicians.

    The United States has been dominant in the mathematical sciences since the mass exodus of European scientists in the 1930s. Because mathematics is the basis of science—as well as virtually all major technological advances, including scientific computing, climate modelling, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and robotics—US leadership in math has supplied our country with an enormous strategic advantage. But for various reasons, three of which we set out below, the United States is now at risk of losing that dominant position.

    First, and most obvious, is the deplorable state of our K-12 math education system. Far too few American public-school children are prepared for careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). This leaves us increasingly dependent on a constant inflow of foreign talent, especially from mainland China, Taiwan, South Korea, and India. In a 2015 survey conducted by the Council of Graduate Schools and the Graduate Record Examinations Board, about 55 percent of all participating graduate students in mathematics, computer sciences, and engineering at US schools were found to be foreign nationals. In 2017, the National Foundation for American Policy estimated that international students accounted for 81 percent of full-time graduate students in electrical engineering at U.S. universities; and 79 percent of full-time graduate students in computer science.

    That report also concluded that many programs in these fields couldn’t even be maintained without international students. In our field, mathematics, we find that at most top departments in the United States, at least two-thirds of the faculty are foreign born. (And even among those faculty born in the United States, a large portion are first-generation Americans.) Similar patterns may be observed in other STEM disciplines.

    The second reason for concern is that the nationwide effort to reduce racial disparities, however well-intentioned, has had the unfortunate effect of weakening the connection between merit and scholastic admission. It also has served (sometimes indirectly) to discriminate against certain groups—mainly Asian Americans. The social-justice rhetoric used to justify these diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs is often completely at odds with the reality one observes on campuses. The concept of fighting “white supremacy,” in particular, doesn’t apply to the math field, since American-born scholars of all races now collectively represent a small (and diminishing) minority of the country’s academic STEM specialists.

    ...

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    #249112 - 08/23/21 06:31 AM Re: US Schools Prioritize Diversity Over Merit [Re: Bostonian]
    aquinas Offline
    Member

    Registered: 11/02/12
    Posts: 2480
    How are you squaring the circle of diversity considerations in admissions being dilutive? Given the needed influx of foreign trained mathematicians to run and promote rigorous math training, and to occupy technical jobs, it seems the problem isn’t diversity. It’s weak K-12 math standards that throttle the pipeline of math-strong students, irrespective of background.

    _________________________
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    #249113 - 08/23/21 07:07 AM Re: US Schools Prioritize Diversity Over Merit [Re: Bostonian]
    Team3 Offline
    Junior Member

    Registered: 03/12/21
    Posts: 9
    Loc: New York
    American math majors were typically unprepared for analysis, in my experience. Even those who had performed well in the K-12 system, and through Calculus III in college, found that memorize-and-apply curricula didn't serve them well in proof-based work.

    It makes you wonder whether a solution is to make math "harder" earlier, perhaps by emphasizing creativity and puzzling rather than rote—and even application. Maybe math majors are a step up, though it's unclear that the wait-until-analysis approach positions this group well for the task the authors lay out.


    Edited by Team3 (08/23/21 07:08 AM)

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    #249114 - 08/23/21 07:09 AM Re: US Schools Prioritize Diversity Over Merit [Re: Bostonian]
    aquinas Offline
    Member

    Registered: 11/02/12
    Posts: 2480
    ^^What Team3 said.
    _________________________
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    #249116 - 08/23/21 08:59 AM Re: US Schools Prioritize Diversity Over Merit [Re: aquinas]
    Bostonian Offline
    Member

    Registered: 02/14/10
    Posts: 2625
    Loc: MA
    Aquinas, a DEI precept is that a lack of diversity is a sign of inequity, and the authors discuss how the pursuit of equity is worsening the teaching of mathematics:

    Quote:
    An even bigger problem, in our view, is that the educational establishment has an almost complete lock on the content taught in our schools, with little input from the university math community. This unusual feature of American policymaking has led to a constant stream of ill-advised and dumbed-down “reforms,” which have served to degrade the teaching of mathematics to such an extent that it has become difficult to distinguish a student who is capable from one who is not.

    Those who find that last assertion difficult to accept should peruse the revised Mathematics Framework proposed by California’s Department of Education. If implemented, the California framework would do away with any tracking or differentiation of students up to the 11th grade. In order to achieve what the authors call “equity” in math education, the framework would effectively close the main pathway to calculus in high school to all students except those who take extra math outside school—which, in practice, means students from families that can afford enrichment programs (or those going to charter and private schools). California is just one state, of course. But as has been widely noted, when it comes to policymaking, what happens in California today often will come to other states tomorrow.

    The framework proposed for California’s 10,588 public schools and their six-million-plus students promotes “data science” as a preferred pathway, touting it as the mathematics of the 21st century. While this might sound like a promising idea, the actual “data-science” pathway described in the framework minimizes algebraic training to such an extent that it leaves students completely unprepared for most STEM undergraduate degrees. Algebra is essential to modern mathematics; and there is hardly any application of mathematics (including real data science) that is not based to a large extent on either algebra or calculus (with the latter being impossible to explain or implement without the former).

    The authors write that “a fundamental aim of this framework is to respond to issues of inequity in mathematics learning”; that “we reject ideas of natural gifts and talents [and the] cult of the genius”; and that “active efforts in mathematics teaching are required in order to counter the cultural forces that have led to and continue to perpetuate current inequities.” And yet the research they cite to justify these claims has been demonstrated to be shallow, misleadingly applied, vigorously disputed, or just plainly wrong.

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    #249117 - 08/23/21 10:27 AM Re: US Schools Prioritize Diversity Over Merit [Re: Bostonian]
    Wren Offline
    Member

    Registered: 01/14/08
    Posts: 1672
    I have been saying the same thing since I got to Canada. NYC public education seemed to have the emphasis on STEM, and I was really pleased with her schooling through 3rd grade. When we came to Toronto and I put her in the gifted program, in a really good neighborhood, it was awful. And the whole focus here -- with white parents, is to put them in French immersion programs -- then they qualify for government jobs. You have to be bilingual. No matter how bad your other skills are.

    OECD has shown that math and science scores have dropped in Ontario for over 10 years. But parents don't care. As long as they are in French immersion. DD's private academic, which used to be a free private gifted school at U of T, like Hunter in NYC, is 80% Asian. Because these parents care about the STEM education. Most of the CDN reps in physic or chem olympiads come from this school.

    I think it is cultural problem. With 2nd generation. When European immigrants came after WW2, all they had was education. They stressed that and kids went into engineering and medicine. Styvescant was considered a Jewish school because of all the jewish immigration and the parents pushing their kids to do well. Now Sty is the asian school because immigrant parents from Asia push their kids to do well. I see Asian kids who are 2nd gen in Dd's school are not pushed and they are not in the physic olympiad. They drive their parents jags and do OK. So I think it is just cultural. The north american lifestyle. To spoil kids more than to thrash them if they do poorly. I think the demands of parents in China is very different as those kids are in school ten hours from an early age, focused on a much harder curriculum. A parent at DD's NYC school, from Beijing, PhD in stem faced a dilemma. Her husband got a job in China so they could move back, but she said her son would never survive in a Chinese elementary after being in a US school, which is so slack. And this NYC gifted school was way better than what I experienced in Toronto.
    China has 3X the population. 3X the gifted population. With a more challenging curriculum. People post here about more challenging curriculum for their kids. They do it. Hard to get consensus to do that here. Sorry for the rant. My pet peeve the lack of support for math.

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    #249118 - 08/23/21 10:30 AM Re: US Schools Prioritize Diversity Over Merit [Re: Bostonian]
    aquinas Offline
    Member

    Registered: 11/02/12
    Posts: 2480
    You’re conflating diversity and equity.

    I refer you to my earlier post, Bostonian.

    Diversity itself is not dilutive; in this case, it’s very much the opposite, as diversity is the source of many of the most able candidates in the field. Neither is equity dilutive, unless it’s founded on a low standard as the a priori agreed upon standard.

    Team 3 spoke cogently to the core issue.
    _________________________
    What is to give light must endure burning.

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    #249119 - 08/23/21 10:35 AM Re: US Schools Prioritize Diversity Over Merit [Re: Bostonian]
    aquinas Offline
    Member

    Registered: 11/02/12
    Posts: 2480
    I’m appreciating Wren’s post here - low standards and lack of parental demand for rigor being the problem, reinforced by a lack of advanced STEM teaching credentials. That’s been my observation. And the PISA scores don’t lie.

    I actually flirted with launching a private gifted magnet, but there was a lack of traction among parents and a lack of interest in radical acceleration. It became clear what the gap was - parents have a public list of school requirements that they speak about, and an actual list. The parents, by and large, are happy “striving” for their children, as long as someone else does the heavy lifting.

    As long as they feel they have offered “more” by relative standards than the public system, they feel that box is checked, irrespective of whether their children are actually getting a better education. It’s much like people who claim they want to get in shape, but never lift a finger, or fizzle out after a week: the difference between aspiration and action.

    Achievement requires rigor and discipline - in any field.
    _________________________
    What is to give light must endure burning.

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    #249121 - 08/23/21 11:57 AM Re: US Schools Prioritize Diversity Over Merit [Re: Bostonian]
    aeh Offline
    Member

    Registered: 04/26/14
    Posts: 3884
    Anyone else read this take on diversity/equity/tests in admissions?

    https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/07/why-university-california-dropping-sat/619522/


    Edited by aeh (08/23/21 11:58 AM)
    Edit Reason: replaced words for more specificity
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    #249122 - 08/23/21 12:42 PM Re: US Schools Prioritize Diversity Over Merit [Re: Bostonian]
    Wren Offline
    Member

    Registered: 01/14/08
    Posts: 1672
    I agree with the article in the atlantic. The problem is not with the SAT, it is the 13 years of education for these disadvantaged minorities. It has been proven over decades now, that you can create schools in these environments, where 3 meals are given over the weekdays, you provide a nuturing environment, and push the academics, not just the lowest you can go, that the children respond. They feel they are in a safe and nurturing environment, get fed and do well and then can compete with everyone else on the SAT. We know that if we do this, it works. Another peeve. Arguing about Afghanistan now. It was a trillion dollar mistake. A trillion dollars that could have been invested in schools, an investment in children here. Can you imagine what that would mean if that trillion dollars had been invested in low income neighborhood schools? But going back to back to the whole math thing. If the people running the US were smarter, then they would realize that old style military is like using a cavalry. China is using technology that they could hack anything. Russia, the same. Do you see them worrying about a huge military? No, they know they can just hack and do things like destroying the oil process in southern US and causing a gas shortage. How many soldiers did that require? If you were running a company, where would you make the investments? And that brings us back to the original problem. Education is treated as a nonessential. At least not strategic. That is the big mistake. Education should be more strategic than buying more warships.

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    #249124 - 08/23/21 01:07 PM Re: US Schools Prioritize Diversity Over Merit [Re: Bostonian]
    aeh Offline
    Member

    Registered: 04/26/14
    Posts: 3884
    The irony is that it likely costs less money long-term--but more work in the mid-term--to improve instruction and conditions in low-performing schools. Not to go off on too much of a tangent here, but the added costs to society of decreased productivity alone offset the false savings of not investing in effective K-12 education for everyone. And this is without even getting into the significant increased costs that result from social services over a lifetime for adults who aren't able to access jobs with living wages, or the even more dicey conversation regarding costs to society from increased crime (where there is a long-standing negative correlation between both literacy and high school completion, and involvement in the criminal justice system).

    The quality (or lack) of K-12 general STEM education also has real-life implications even for those who finish their STEM education at grade 12. Exhibit A: public response to the pandemic.
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    #249126 - 08/23/21 08:40 PM Re: US Schools Prioritize Diversity Over Merit [Re: Bostonian]
    aquinas Offline
    Member

    Registered: 11/02/12
    Posts: 2480
    ^^Aeh, you're spot on. I remembered reading the Atlantic article you linked a while back and found it informative.

    The line that pays for the skim-readers in our group is:

    Quote:
    "The scholars determined that the obvious challenges faced by low-income Black and Latino students were poverty and poor K–12 education."


    It's worth a review of the source research commissioned by the UC senate for those interested in evidence-based EDI work.

    https://senate.universityofcalifornia.edu/_files/committees/sttf/sttf-report.pdf

    And yes - education pays dividends. I ran some quick simulations for Canada, and the economic multiplier on public education spending is 1.33. Translated, that means $1 invested in education generates $1.33 of real GDP for the Canadian economy each year. This compares with $1.08 for every dollar invested in the average of all Canadian industries.

    You read that right. The ROI on education is 4 times that of investing in the economy as a whole - returns that, if sustained, would satisfy hedge fund managers. And that's an underestimate, because it doesn't fully factor in opportunity costs and foregone risk. The US would have similar returns.

    Low educational quality is not a resource constraint problem. It's a resource ALLOCATION one.

    Politics and social views shouldn't matter to one's agreement with this - it is so absurdly clear on a financial level that no moral appeal is required.

    Making outstanding quality K-12 instruction universally available would more than self-finance, and the returns of doing so would far exceed the value of alternate investments of public funds.
    _________________________
    What is to give light must endure burning.

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    #249127 - 08/24/21 07:20 AM Re: US Schools Prioritize Diversity Over Merit [Re: aquinas]
    Kai Offline
    Member

    Registered: 05/17/09
    Posts: 640
    Originally Posted By: aquinas
    I’m appreciating Wren’s post here - low standards and lack of parental demand for rigor being the problem, reinforced by a lack of advanced STEM teaching credentials.

    ...

    Achievement requires rigor and discipline - in any field.


    I am currently working toward a second bachelor's degree in math after having taught K-12 math to my own children and high school algebra to other people's children. I literally failed every math class I took in junior high and high school, so I had to relearn math as an adult from the bottom up in order to teach it properly.

    My point is that I am continually astounded at just how much needs to go right in a kid's math education for them to be truly successful in, say, multivariable calculus. You need proper instruction and regular practice year after year after year with no significant gaps. You need someone forcing you to pay attention to the concepts rather than just default to pattern matching. You need to see how it all fits together. You need to learn how to learn difficult material and how to deal with the fact that you will be wrong again and again and again.

    I agree with Wren and aquinas that culture is the problem. You have a school culture that that thinks that math should be fun and defaults to putting kids in the slower, easier track at the first sign of trouble. You have a family culture that isn't willing to ensure that kids get the instruction and practice they need day after day, year after year. And you have a national culture that does not value what it takes to succeed in STEM, even as its members crave all of the technological goodies that derive from it.

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    #249128 - 08/24/21 08:21 AM Re: US Schools Prioritize Diversity Over Merit [Re: Kai]
    Bostonian Offline
    Member

    Registered: 02/14/10
    Posts: 2625
    Loc: MA
    Originally Posted By: Kai
    My point is that I am continually astounded at just how much needs to go right in a kid's math education for them to be truly successful in, say, multivariable calculus. You need proper instruction and regular practice year after year after year with no significant gaps. You need someone forcing you to pay attention to the concepts rather than just default to pattern matching. You need to see how it all fits together. You need to learn how to learn difficult material and how to deal with the fact that you will be wrong again and again and again.

    One reason I had my children attend Russian School of Math through middle school was to increase the chance they would be in the top track in math. So far it has worked, although it probably was unnecessary for the eldest.

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    #249130 - 08/24/21 05:08 PM Re: US Schools Prioritize Diversity Over Merit [Re: Bostonian]
    Wren Offline
    Member

    Registered: 01/14/08
    Posts: 1672
    I think any strong math instruction should allow for most children, capable of calculus, to go further. You have to do multivariable calculus in engineering.

    I don't think the general population of parents will push. It is also same attitude about CS. DD's school is a private academic. Most kids took the first AP CS course in python. They don't pursue the second AP CS course in java. DD now is so involved in CS, she knows 7 languages. She does free lance CS jobs and makes a good amount of money doing it.

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    #249131 - 08/24/21 08:14 PM Re: US Schools Prioritize Diversity Over Merit [Re: Wren]
    Kai Offline
    Member

    Registered: 05/17/09
    Posts: 640
    Originally Posted By: Wren
    I think any strong math instruction should allow for most children, capable of calculus, to go further. You have to do multivariable calculus in engineering.


    Well, yes, I suppose that would be the idea. The point is that getting that strong instruction and necessary practice consistently for 12 years is not what is happening in many (most?) schools in the US.

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