July 9, 2009 10:25AM

STEM Sky Not Falling?

Education policy is far too rarely driven by facts or logic — they’re just too inconvenient, mucking up both uber‐​hyped “crises” and warm‐​and‐​fuzzy myths.

Recently, the big scare has been that the United States is on its way to a desperate shortage of scientists and engineers, a message that has, of course, been heartily embraced by politicians determined to push more kids into science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Well, it seems that once again the crisis du jour has been well overstated. USA Today has a great new story demonstrating that we actually have more than enough scientists and engineers. (Not that this hasn’t been pointed out before.) Most telling is the content in the article’s sidebar, which includes some real crisis‐​deflating stuff:

Detailed findings issued last year by the federally funded RAND National Defense Research Institute found “no evidence of a current shortage” of science and engineering workers. It said National Science Foundation predictions of shortages so far have proved “inaccurate.”

RAND… recommended a permanent commitment to monitoring the USA’s science and technology performance, but said the slow growth of U.S.-born technical workers “will change when the earnings and attractiveness of S&E (science and engineering) careers improve.”

So we actually have plenty of scientists and engineers, and the market appears to be working just as it should? I hope someone tells our leaders! Otherwise, they’ll almost certainly push even more kids into jobs that, it turns out, will probably only exist in the land of imaginary crises.