The Washington Post this week published a handful of responses to a question they asked their readers: How do you encourage the next great U.S. inventions? Two themes that the Post was quick to point out were our outdated education model, and the need for high-skilled immigration reform. It is encouraging to see the Post highlight two issues that TechElect has identified as drivers of an economic recovery.
On the issue of education, one reader suggested that we make sure our classrooms are up to date with the latest technology and that we promote application-based learning. Another correctly noted that many STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) subjects aren’t taught by STEM professionals. The reader suggested that we encourage STEM career professionals to partner with schools, providing students with a chance to learn from highly qualified teachers, and realize first-hand the real life applications of STEM.
Respondents also underscored the need for high-skilled immigration reform. One reader was crystal clear in his assessment saying that we’re missing the boat in allowing American-educated, foreign-born students to leave the country, taking with them their innovative, job creating ides.
STEM education and immigration reform are vital pieces of the innovation puzzle. Our foreign competitors consistently have a leg up on us in the international market place because our students are either unprepared to meet the challenges of the 21st century economy, or, if they are foreign-born, are asked to leave. Ignoring these realities will only keep the country in an economic rut.
Consider this: In 2011, not even half of all U.S. high school graduates were prepared for college work in math and under a third were prepared in science. Moreover, in the next five years alone, 100,000 foreign-born, American-educated students will leave the country, taking with them ideas and job creating capacity.
The Post readers offered excellent ideas to grow the economy, and President Obama and Governor Romney would be wise to take their suggestions and engage in a more substantive discussion on these two issues. In the near term, the candidates should look to Senator Cornyn’s, R-Tex,, STAR Act or the bipartisan Moran-Coons Startup 2.0 Act to help steer an immigration reform discussion. As for the long term, President Obama has put forth a plan which will ensure STEM subjects are taught by qualified teachers, while Governor Romney has also called for more innovative school systems. While no single plan is going to provide a cure-all for the economy, together they can provide a good foundation on which to spur innovation and create jobs.