Technology edge

Technology has given America the edge worldwide for many years, but lately there have been an increasing number of signs that we are letting this slip, especially at the education level. Some notes from this article at the SFGate: “American Universities fall way behind in programming / Weakest result for U.S. in 29-year history of international technology competition” that I found interesting, with my occasional emphasis added:

Patterson noted that, in many high-scoring countries, governments are in the vanguard of technology research. In the 1970s and 1980s, he said, the Defense Department’s research arm, DARPA, invested in academic research and supported work in industrial centers such as Xerox PARC and Bell Labs. That public/private cooperation helped develop the personal computer and the Internet.

When there is more and more competition in the world, the U.S. government is spending less on research than before,” he said.

While the United States slips, China’s technology skills are rising, South Korea is the leader in broadband data transmission, and India is becoming the world’s programming hub. Europe, which also did well in the contest, is ahead of the United States in online mobile telephone service.

“The educational system has done a demonstrably poor job of (teaching) technical, scientific and computing,” said Georgia Institute of Technology Professor Jim Foley, chairman of Computing Research Association, a group made up of academic departments, industrial labs and professional societies.

Chip-making giant Intel says it is also worried.

“Our students in K-12 don’t do well in international tests in math and science. We have too few students entering degree programs in math and science, ” said Tracy Koon, director of corporate affairs.

If you assume science and math drive innovation and innovation is the soul of technology and technology drives a large part of the global of economy — and any particular nation’s ability to be competitive — we have a problem.

Now while one competition probably can’t be held to signify a general overall erosion of technical capability for any one country, it seems apparent that America is gradually losing it’s focus on educational excellence. At best, there is a “get by” attitude where the minimum requirement is taken to be sufficient, while at worst there is a real crisis emerging with some school districts reporting over 50% dropout rates.

Complacency on this issue seems to be out of the question. If we are not focused, at the national level, on developing our own citizens’ educational excellence and the nation’s technical advantage, then we are ensuring that we will continue to fall behind. Education has a direct impact on our future economy, employment rates, national security, health, and the general welfare of the country. Invest in it and we will succeed. Disregard it and we will continue to slide.

The Vatican’s Taiwan Tango

Taiwan prez Chen meets Vatican official

John Paul II was a staunch anti-communist, and he wasn’t dead more than a few moments before there was talk of the Vatican switching relations from Taiwan to China.

The Vatican has suggested that it might switch diplomatic relations from Taiwan to China if China agreed to give the Vatican some control over China’s Catholics and to stop religious persecution, but of course neither of those are going to happen. So in turn it appears that Rome stays friendly to Taiwan, President Chen Shui-Bian got to attend the funeral which was a big media frenzy with dozens of other heads of state, and China got to throw a hissy fit.

In the end this makes China look bad for throwing a fit just because a democratically-elected leader was able to pay last respects to a highly-respected world figure, while giving Taiwan much needed publicity on the issue in Europe, which has been engaged in recent debate on whether or not they should resume arms sales to China. But the more people learn the facts about the issue between China and Taiwan, the more they realize how truly outrageous the Chinese position on Taiwan really is. Where there was passive ambivalence before, there comes to the newly-educated on the subject a sense of distate for China’s tactics and policies of agression.