Japan, with half the population of the United States, graduates five times as many engineers each year. For every American high-school student who has taken calculus, there are fifty Soviet students who have.
The world is moving into a high-technology future even while the United States, almost alone among the developed nations, is moving backward into scientific illiteracy.A shrinking scientific elite will be trying to keep the United States in the technological race as other nations pass us by and leave us behind.
What are we to do?
Scientific decay is not something we can reverse overnight. We can solve some parts of the problem (such as shortages of supplies and equipment in our schools) by throwing money at it, but the nation is in no mood to throw money at anything but "defense," and it does not see a scientifically literate population as part of that.
We can change this attitude, explain the need to approach crucial decisions with widespread understanding of the scientific issues involved in energy, food supplies, pollution, ecological balance, and so on.
This will take time, but no matter how much time it takes the world of American science must strive toward it.We must learn how to talk to the public, how to make our case, how to stress our importance to the very life of the nation. We must interest private industry in the importance of education if the government is blind to it, we must seek for closer cooperation between industrial laboratories and academic ones, we must ourselves go into the grade schools and public schools. And while we are doing all this—anything else?