Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
United States

Whither America's Technological Edge? 1194

Posted by Cliff
from the stuff-to-think-about dept.
baldass_newbie asks: "Ben Stein wrote an editorial titled, 'How to Ruin American Enterprise'. To me, technological innovation is a big outward sign of a successful economy. Sometimes it appears like the U.S. is losing its edge in technology. Well, I was wondering what the Slashdot community at large thinks is wrong (or right) with the U.S. and technological innovation?" The article deals less with technology and more with the society on which said innovation is based, and the problems that may bring it down around our collective ears. Give the article a read, and share your thoughts on whether or not you think it's an accurate assessment on the current and future situation of America's technological advantage.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Whither America's Technological Edge?

Comments Filter:
  • by ras_b (193300) on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:19PM (#4901360)
    Every time some new, cool tech gadget comes out here, i talk to my friend from Tokyo and he tells me he had it a year ago.
    • by Otter (3800) on Monday December 16, 2002 @06:22PM (#4901829) Journal
      Every time some new, cool tech gadget comes out here, i talk to my friend from Tokyo and he tells me he had it a year ago.

      Yes, leadership in consumer electronic technology shifted to Asia decades ago.

      But that has nothing to do with "America's technological edge". Every time this topic comes up, the most common metric for scientific prowess is how many buttons a country puts on its cell phones. That's something, I guess, but it indicates how removed "geeks" are from what's really going on in the research world.

      Being in the molecular biology / genomics field, maybe I have a skewed view of how the US ranks in research across the board. But if you pick up any issue of Nature or Science, the US has by far the most publications, in biology, chemistry, geology or physics. Japan, the UK and Germany variously compete for second place, with France, Israel, Korea and some others after them.

      Frequently when this topic comes up, I'll grab the latest issue and give a quick total, but right now need to go back maintaining my own edge....

    • Well, if all you look at is consumer electronics, then you might have a point. But consumer electronics, while very visible and desirable to most SlashDot readers, only account for a miniscule portion of the country's technology output.

      Our applied technology in the fields of aerospace, medicine, defense, security, manufacturing, telecom, and just about everything else dwarf the rest of the world in terms of value, functionality, and technological edge. Ever try making a pay phone call in Italy, for example? How about that British car engineering? Japanese plumbing?

      As a good indication of where we stand relative to everyone else (toy-related metrics excluded), check out this article from the Washington Post Magazine [washingtonpost.com].

    • by tswinzig (210999)
      Every time some new, cool tech gadget comes out here, i talk to my friend from Tokyo and he tells me he had it a year ago.

      I think asia does have a lot of cool hardware technology. However, look at the innovative software and software-based services available today, and chances are they originated in the USA.

      Some examples:

      Amazon.com (a user-friendly, e-commerce pioneer)

      eBay (online auction pioneer)

      TiVo ('nuff said)

      Yahoo! (first web search engine)

      Google (often considered the best search engine)

      AOL/Prodigy/CompuServe (put my karma on the line and say these weree the first 'major' online service providers in the world)

      id Software (3D game pioneer)

      Slashdot (blog pioneer. I criticize slashdot routinely, but the site named has been turned into a verb! That has to count for something.)

      etc...
    • Lets look at technology that important to a nation.

      Firstly, it's not consumer electronics.

      In defense the United States is number one.

      China is at least 2-3 generations behind the US in Aerospace. 3-4 in Armored Systems, and Pre-Second World War when it comes to logistics. China hasn't fought a war since 1953, and it has done pretty bad in everything it's done militarily since the Opium Wars.

      Russia had parity in the late 70s and early 80s, but it's content to stick with the generation old systems it has. Some new systems are coming out of Russia, but a lack of capital is crippling.

      EU, the EU has some decent tech in the British and French Defence industries, but a lack of cohesive planning and a lack of foreward thinking cripplies development. That and a flawed defense budget will keep the EU accepting hand-outs from the US and limiting thier power-projection capabilities.

      The rest of the world, well India is the most advanced and it's rolling out a successor to the MiG-21 and F-5 right now, those are 40 year old platforms in the same generation as what G.W. Bush flew as a Reserve pilot in the early 70s.

      In Microprocessor and Computers

      I've not seen Sony or Panasonic come out with any switching or CPUs, maybe they've come out and arn't here yet.

      Honestly, there are some systems developed in Japan, but they've not reached mainstream deployment nor have they developed the infrastructure to mass produce an Intel or AMD killer. Japan is a niche player in the development of advanced computer systems. They make photo-lithography tools and optics and make nice little motors, but they don't push the state of the art.

      In biotechnology, I really don't know who is tops, it's probly the US and EU tied.

      Sort of on topic, I was in Den Haag having breakfast with a cousin who worked in the US Iran-Claims-Tribunal and we were taking about the state of the world. He said, "There are three places where things are invented, you know the important things. The United States, Bayer and Semeins."
      • You can't compare Russian and American military technologies and pinpoint a leader. In certain areas Russians have an edge, in certain Americans do. Claiming that in "defense the United States is number one" is being plain ignorant.

        SU37, for instance, in 97 was about a decade in technological years (search google for expert opinions) ahead of anything Americans had every produced or had/have in works.

        Shkval missile (underwater missile) can travel three times faster than anything currently on the market or in blueprint. Americans are doing everything to steal the technology, as they can't possibly imagine how to make anything similar. That technology was invented in 70-s.

        I can go on and on and on. You will probably want to mention a stealth fighter? Well, using it in countries that don't have advanced radar technologies is a plus. Russians had the capability to detect "stealth" technology just as soon as it appeared. I would better rely on vector thrust engines in my plain that on a multimillion coating that can be easily rendered useless if one put a scratch on it.

        For almost every American gadget I can give you either equivalent or a more superior Russian product.

        In microprocessors? Check www.elbrus.ru I don't exactly remember the date, but they have a working 1ghz CPU (e2k) back in 90s.

        The sad thing is, US barely produces its own scientists. If you take a look at the nametags besides inventions, you will see that (let's be conservative in our estimation) 90% are immigrants or children of immigrants.

        • Su-37, it's not a decade beyond anything the US or EU has built, it's an Su-27 with thrust vectoring. It isn't stealthy, it doesn't have a super-cruise capability and it doesn't have the altitude advantages F-22 has. It doesn't have the data-link capabilites Grippin or F-22 have because Russia hasn't even started to market that capability.

          http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/missile/row/s hk val.htm
          Shkval, yea it worked really well sinking the Kursk. No, really it's fast, but there have been guidence problems, and it's only been in a homing form since the mid 90s. It'd work really well against American subs, but you can't hit what you can't hear.

          Stealth, F-117 is early 80s technology, F-22 is much faster, higher flying and stealthier than F-117. F-117 can operate around 15-20 thousand feet above the service cellings of any MiG or Su other than MiG-31.

          Where are the Russian GPS guided munitions? GPS jammer? JDAMs have a CEP of 10 meters without terminal guidence, opposed to 3-5 meters with it.

          "The sad thing is, US barely produces its own scientists. If you take a look at the nametags besides inventions, you will see that (let's be conservative in our estimation) 90% are immigrants or children of immigrants."

          If the United States was a second rate technology power, why would thousands flock to the US? For the last 400 years American has been filled with first and second generation immigrants. The United States military has tons of first and second generation immigrants. John Paul Jones, Baron von Steuben, John Ericsson, Einstein, Andy Grove, John Holland, Igor Sikorsky, Tesla, and so on in every field.

          In the Civil War there were six regiments were made up solely of Germans in Missouri. Another example is Brickel's 1st Battalion German Light Artillery.

          Look over http://www.civilwararchive.com/unionny.htm and see all the Units with a claimed European heritage. They didn't call themselves things like "Ulster Guard" for flavor.
        • 90% are immigrants or children of immigrants.

          ...or the children of children of immigrants...

          Keep that up enough and NOTHING was invented by Americans. This whole thread is making me sick. Every technology originating in US is traced back to some barely relevant component tech that was invented elsewhere so the author can state that another country invented it. Hell, one guy even said that UNIX was developed in Australia!

          It makes me sad that so many people here jump through their asses to bash the US, and the only people defending Americans are almost apologetic about it.

          Somebody shoot me....oh, wait, I suppose none of you America-bashing pacifists would have a gun.

          Don't mean to rant, just had to get it off my chest.

  • Money (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kkith (551310) <`moc.oohay' `ta' `htikk'> on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:20PM (#4901372) Journal
    Money is the cause AND downfall of innovation.

    Look at Microsoft, RIAA. They make too much money keeping technology in check.

    But then again, competiton (for more money) leads to innovation as well.

    Maybe it is the balance between the two that is required.
  • Well (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:21PM (#4901387)
    To me, technological innovation is a big outward sign of a successful economy.

    Actually, increased productivity is a big outward sign of a successful economy. Innovation (not necessarily technical) allows us to do more with less and, as such, is a driver of productivity.
  • by Salgak1 (20136) <<ten.ysaekaeps> <ta> <kaglas>> on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:22PM (#4901390) Homepage
    . . .that, while well-founded, don't quite strike home. Not everyone can write kernels, develop new languages, create new products, etc. As long as there is a creative minority, innovating at the usual furious pace, we don't have a real problem. The problem, as **I** see it, is a growing divide between the Tech Elite and Everyone Else. Sort of a Morlocks and Eloi situation. . . .while we're out being technological innovators and implementors, the schools, etc, are pushing out more and more marketeers, lawyers, admin assistants, MCSEs, etc. . .
    • by Dr.Stress (113010) on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:34PM (#4901541)
      Not everyone can write kernels, develop new languages, create new products, etc. As long as there is a creative minority, innovating at the usual furious pace, we don't have a real problem.
      But the creative minority has to come from somewhere, ideally from an educated population. I think Ben Stein's point, with regards to education, is that by dumbing down the curricula in schools so much, we are depriving ourselves of creating new generations of the "tech elite" or "creative minority". This IS a serious problem. And we DO need to address it NOW, not wait until the rest of the world passes us by and we become a shell of a nation.
      • Agreed. And the other half of the equation is, how much is the "creative minority" held slave to the needs and wants of the mediocre majority.

        One of the death knells of freedom in a "democratic" society is when a majority of people realize that they can exist without effort as long as the minority produces enough for all.
        • He said something to the effect that the Republic will continue until the politicians discover that they can buy the voters off with the voters' own money. And there's no effective way to tell the politicians to bugger off and get rid of the parasite classes, because all of the money is in the expansion of government power and the parasite classes lobby hard to stay on their gravy train, while the productive classes actually have to find time for productivity.

          Bread and circuses, the same way the Roman Empire fell. That's where we're headed. Ayn Rand was a wacko, but in this she was right.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:22PM (#4901392)
    Could some one translate this into Democrat for me please? I think I agree, but I'm not sure...
  • by X_Bones (93097) <danorz13@@@yahoo...com> on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:22PM (#4901395) Homepage Journal
    MetaFilter had an interesting discussion on this article a couple of days ago. Link here [metafilter.com].
  • USPTO... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Cyclopedian (163375) on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:23PM (#4901400) Journal
    Look no further than this monstronity that very nearly approves everything in sight. Brainless patents and lawyering have held up innovation far worse than actual technological competitiveness.

    -Cyc

  • Well, duh. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Skyshadow (508) on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:23PM (#4901402) Homepage
    C'mon, this is obvious:

    How long can America keep pumping out students whose test scores are in the cellar for industrial nations and expect to maintain an edge in technology? As it stands, a lot of our brains are already imported from India and China.

    I live in CA, which should stand as a dire warning to the rest of the country: They limit their property taxes, their schools go underfunded, and as a result California natives largely end up working to repair the cars and wash the floors of the well-educated from elsewhere.

    The US needs to get serious about education, and fast. With the tech boom and the world shinking as it is, this is a really bad time to be stupid.

    • Re:Well, duh. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MagikSlinger (259969) on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:30PM (#4901506) Homepage Journal
      The US needs to get serious about education, and fast. With the tech boom and the world shinking as it is, this is a really bad time to be stupid.

      It's not just the government. American parents pay lip service to education, but don't really set either a good example nor push their children to excel. I remember in school the classes always had a mix of real poor performers to really good students. The difference was not the teachers, but their home-life and parents. Parents get the kind of education system they want. If they don't care, don't expect the government to care either.

      [Insert your favorite bash to blame for this here]

    • by aquarian (134728) on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:31PM (#4901509)
      The real problem with CA schools is bureaucratic inertia and waste. LA, for example, has approximately one administrator for each teacher on its payroll. And guess whose salary is higher?
    • Re:Well, duh. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Ryu2 (89645) on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:45PM (#4901629) Homepage Journal
      I do agree that education is the root cause, but test scores, etc. are only one part of the story. I'm an American, but I've spent a lot of time in many Asian countries, and have worked with many people over there. The educational system there emphasizes discipline, conformity, rote practice and drilling and unity, in accordance with societal values that traditionally pervase Asian societies.

      This may sound good on paper, but there's a sad human side to it as well, in the form of students spending days and nights outside of class in outside of school courses, known as juku in Japan or hagwon in Korea, in a furious rat-race attempt to succeed. All emphasis is placed on getting into the top schools, to preserve the all-so-important face prevalent in Asian society. It's no coincidence that the suicide rate amongst teenagers in Asia is much higher than the general population over there.

      Corporal punishment is practiced in classrooms. The curriculum is homogenous across all schools and teaching method is rote memorization and practice, practice, and more practice, which does not encourage the development of free thinking, and all this talked about "innovation" is generally spawned at the industrial rather than the academic level.

      While Asia is indeed impressive, all this comes at a price, and blindly following their methods is. IMHO, not the way for the US to go.
      • Re:Well, duh. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by leviramsey (248057) on Monday December 16, 2002 @06:19PM (#4901810) Journal

        Those societal things are often why the various Asian nations tend not to make advances in science, medicine, and technology, though they may be the ones who best capitalize on it. Innovation, by definition, requires challenging the old order, the hierarchy. Confucian-type values make it very difficult to take this first step.

        How many major, reasonably innovative (ie not a clone of Outlook) pieces of computer software (to take an example) are currently or were designed by an Asian (not an Asian American)? I can't think of one off the top of my head. Now how many are being coded by Asians (using design directives from non-Asians)?

        This may sound horribly racist, but that is not the intent. If anything, it's pointing out a tension that exists between Confucianism and innovation. The fact that many persons "of Asian extraction" but who grew up in the West are great innovators indicates that it is not an issue of brain capacity; it is an issue of culturally-influenced psychology.

    • by Codex The Sloth (93427) on Monday December 16, 2002 @06:05PM (#4901770)
      * Handing out laptops [mysanantonio.com]to everyone is not the answer -- most of those countries that beat US schools don't have access to current books, let alone laptops.

      * The internet will not teach your children -- while it's true there is a fountain of knowledge at your fingertips, there's a ocean full of crap to sift though.

      * Stop focussing so much money on organized sports when your school is graduating illiterates.

      * Kids using Powerpoint [detnews.com] is not the answer. Unless the question is -- How do we raise a nation of Marketing drones!
    • Re:Well, duh. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by FatRatBastard (7583) on Monday December 16, 2002 @06:19PM (#4901806) Homepage
      I live in CA, which should stand as a dire warning to the rest of the country: They limit their property taxes, their schools go underfunded...

      Bullshit. There's a lot wrong with California public education, but underfunding isn't one of them [reason.com]. California public schools spent $9,267.00 per student for the education of its kindergarten through high school. That's a LOT of money per kid (you can send your kid to a top flight private school for about half), and most of it is pissed away by the bureaucracy. You don't cure a shopaholic by giving them more money, and you don't solve the education funding "problem" by giving them more money either.
    • C'mon, this is obvious:

      How long can America keep pumping out students whose test scores are in the cellar for industrial nations and expect to maintain an edge in technology? As it stands, a lot of our brains are already imported from India and China.

      I live in CA, which should stand as a dire warning to the rest of the country: They limit their property taxes, their schools go underfunded, and as a result California natives largely end up working to repair the cars and wash the floors of the well-educated from elsewhere.


      The US needs to get serious about education, and fast. With the tech boom and the world shinking as it is, this is a really bad time to be stupid.

      I hear this stuff all the time, and used to believe it myself on occasion. Its simply not true. The educational system was NEVER intended to make people smart, it was intended to make the intelligent human masses comfortable working in factories doing boring, repetitive work and acquiesing to the demands of leaders. Education as we know it, is a system which originated in fascist germany as a way to school better, more obedient and selfless soldiers.

      Make no mistake. Schools are doing EXACTLY what they were designed to do. Think about it. Have you ever gone to a neighboorhood in the US which was constructed in the 19th century? How is it houses were constructed to be not only durable, but beautiful as well? The parks, museums, sculptures... All built long before public schools. Have you ever read civil war letters? The average 15 year old infantryman in the civil war writes far better than 99% of the people who post on slashdot. Could you imagine any book by Charles Dickens being on the bestseller list today? Why are so many schools named after the industrial magnates of yesteryear, like Carnegie, Colgate... Why were so many colleges funded by the industrial elite?

      If you really think about it, it just doesn't add up. Schools make you DUMB, this is what they were supposed to do. It makes a people easier to control, and less prone to nasty rebellions. Humans are innately intelligent, it is only warping their minds through years of social conditioning they became mad, lost, and inhuman. Carnegie, JP Morgan, Frick, all of them sat around and thought about how to make free men content to work in their god foresaken factories, and like it. They made it so, and now we are living with that legacy.

      The forced educational system must come to an end, it is time for this system of class control to collapse and for the average american to recapture the American dream that was stolen from him by the fascist powers of a century ago. We sit here and rip on the US educational system, even though the educational system is the single largest industry in the United States, both in capital expenditures and employment percentages. How is it people in India and China can do as well as us, even in the midst of an anarchy which can barely pave roads let alone build schools. They are better because they are NOT schooled.

      To all who are interested, I highly suggest you read the online version of a book entitled The Underground History of American Education [johntaylorgatto.com] by one John Taylor Gatto. The book gives a well written account of exactly how the free minds of the United States were perverted into the drones we have today. It is rare I read a book that is truly eye opening, but this book will make it all make sense.
  • by MagikSlinger (259969) on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:24PM (#4901423) Homepage Journal

    Give the article a read, and share your thoughts

    But that violates the /. tradition of posting your thoughts and never reading the article! Heck, some members don't even think about what they're posting.

    • Funny coz it's true.

      I think something is broken with the system when it's all the earliest posts that get the most karma - from the exact users that don't read the article!

      Confession time: I couldn't figure out why my posts were never modded up, time and time again. Then I started posting early, most often without reading the article. Booya - I was up to excellent karma in no time at all. Does anyone else see a problem with this? What if we tried something like no moderation allowed for the first 15 minutes after a story was posted? Well, I guess we'd have a lot of trolls. How about no positive moderation? Just food for thought.

  • School (Score:5, Interesting)

    by seanadams.com (463190) on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:25PM (#4901433) Homepage
    7) Encourage a mass culture that spits on intelligence and study and instead elevates drug use, coolness through sex and violence, and contempt for school.

    This IMHO is the big one. I went to school in England until about age 12, and then came back to a private school in California. Overnight, I went from doing trig, chemistry, latin, greek, french, to gluing fucking popsicle sticks together. I kid you not, our schools are WAY behind the rest of the world.

    If you're an American parent, PLEASE either ship your kids over to Europe, or home school them yourself. American society is way too fucked up to allow for anyone to get a decent education. You would not believe the social pressure - I remember it well, and I had to fight it tooth and nail in order to succeed.

    • Re:School (Score:5, Interesting)

      by IamTheRealMike (537420) <mike@plan99.net> on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:40PM (#4901583) Homepage
      trig, chemistry, latin, greek, french, to gluing fucking popsicle sticks together,

      Wow. You must have gone to an old-skool school :) I'm proud to state that the school I went to is in the top 5% of all comprehensives - it's mixed, non selective and state run. We never did latin or greek, that's rather highbrow. We only learnt French because, well, we're right next door to them. Trig at age 12? Man, we didn't do that until we were 15 or 16 (gcses). I dunno how Brit schooling compares to American, but you're experience seems to have been a lot better than normal.

      Oh, and for any Yanks wondering - such articles are regularly published in UK media too, and all the parents stress about lack of quality schooling and how India will kick our ass etc. I think it's a western thing, rather than American.

    • Re:School (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Knara (9377) on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:55PM (#4901698)
      When I was having thanksgiving dinner with my extended family, the wife of one of my cousins was complaining about her kid's schooling. In the same breath she complained about how the schooling was inadequate, and how they give the kids too much homework.

      How could this be, I wondered. I added that from my experience (and the experience related by my friends who did not go to a private school like I did), kids needed *more* homework, not less.

      Her reply? "Just wait until you have kids, and have to spend your time helping them with their homework."

      And there, my friends, is why our educational system is in the crapper.
      • Re:School (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jazman_777 (44742)
        Her reply? "Just wait until you have kids, and have to spend your time helping them with their homework."

        Tell you what, just wait until you have kids, and not only do they spend all day in school, you have to help them do their homework all evening so they can learn what they should have in eight hours at school. It's just easier to homeschool 'em.

    • Re:School (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 16, 2002 @06:03PM (#4901755)

      I work with schools all the time, and I can tell you the problem with education in the United States is not teachers. It's not even the politicians. It's the general population which seems to be schizophrenic about public education. There are referendums on school vouchers popping up all over the place. That means people are bailing out on public ed. We have to decide whether we want public schools or not and act accordingly.

      As far as marketeers, lawyers, etc., those are the people who have always been successful in the United States. You can't claim that the captains of industry have been brilliant engineers or innovators. More often it seems they're simply people who are ruthless, unscrupulous, lucky, or some combination thereof.

      I'm also a little tired of people bashing the education system without offering any constructive criticism. It's quite easy to scream about how bad the system is and stand silent when asked for potential solutions. In the States, we educate a more diverse and larger population than most people who claim to have better systems. There are individual states in the Union larger than entire EU nations. In fact, there are two or three districts in West Texas that are larger than sovereign European states. So don't tell me we're always comparing apples to apples.

      In short, I think there's a lot of panic about a situation that would better be solved by reason and open discussion. Let's pay our teachers better, put administrative power over schools back at the local level, trim the bureaucratic fat at the state and federal levels, and demand more from our kids.

      Forgive me...I've had way, way too much coffee.

    • Re:School (Score:5, Insightful)

      by KludgeGrrl (630396) on Monday December 16, 2002 @06:18PM (#4901802) Homepage
      True, I don't think anyone can seriously believe that the public school system in the States is not in deep trouble. We've all heard about the %11 of US students who cannot find *the US* on a map... But this neo-conservative plan for the future would hardly solve the problem.

      Apropos of education Stein writes:

      "Allow schools to fall into useless decay. Do not teach civics or history except to describe America as a hopelessly fascistic, reactionary pit. Do not expect students to know the basics of mathematics, chemistry and physics. Working closely with the teachers' unions, make sure that you dumb down standards so that children who make the most minimal effort still get by with flying colors. Destroy the knowledge base on which all of mankind's scientific progress has been built by guaranteeing that such learning is confined to only a few, and spread ignorance and complacency among the many."

      But later (#10 for all you following at home) he argues against what he perceives to be unfair and heavy taxation. So the US is supposed to improve schools without raising money to do so? At its most simple level, there are two basid problems.

      1) Teachers get paid shit in the US. In NYC the average salery for public school teachers is just under $32,000/year (before taxes), which makes it impossible to feed and house oneself in the city (unless there are some other funds coming in, trust fund, spouse, etc). Likewise, a university professor (tenure track) at San Fransico State makes abut $40,000/yr -- in San Francisco! A janitor in a Columbus Ohio high school, on the other hand, makes about $50,000/yr. What does this tell you about the value in which teachers are held?

      There are some great dedicated teachers out there, but I have taught more than one, kind well-meaning, and utterly incompetent student who planned to teach high school (and went on to do so). Yes many teachers suck (although I think almost all must be pretty selfless to put up with a very hard job). Look at what we pay them.

      Yet Stein is also against those evil teacher unions. I hate to break the news, but most teacher unions are not fighting to lower standards, they are fighting for decent working conditions. Sometimes this involves lowering the bar because standards cannot be held in the conditions in which they work. Bringing us to pt. 2...

      2) Given the lack of financial support for education in the US, many schools are falling apart and grossly overcrowded (10% are trying to function at %125 capacity) necesitating teaching in gyms, halls, etc... and creating enormous classes that are impossible for the most dedicated teacher to manage.

      So even if we had better teachers, they would have an impossible job to do. So we end up with a nation of illiterates (44 million I think), who don't know anything about the world around them, not to even mention technology or science.

      It is all very well to say "Hey we should do a better job teaching our kids," of course we should! But to do that we must spend money. Not that throwing money at the problem will make it go away, but it's a fundamental ingredient for meaningful change -- an ingrediant that the rest of Stein's articles run in the face of.

      (sorry for the dangling participle)

      Yes, I differ with Stein in a number of ways, we are clearly on different ends of the political spectrum, but I leave it to others to address his other "points to change" in an intelligent fashion. I'm ranted out for the moment ;)
    • Re:School (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Gropo (445879) <groopoNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Monday December 16, 2002 @06:23PM (#4901833) Homepage Journal
      I absolutely concur! I was raised in British and American international schools in Europe until the 4th grade, at which point we moved back to the 'States and I attended Public schools. They began to teach us French in 1st frickin' grade!

      I recall my 3rd grade class play was a highly professional production with singing solos etc - I move back to the states and I'm the frickin' '3rd upper Molar on the right side' in some banal play about hygeine.

      This country's public school system (shy the new 'charter' system) strikes me as Cro-Magnon survival skills in comparison...
      • Re:School (Score:3, Funny)

        by Arandir (19206)
        I move back to the states and I'm the frickin' '3rd upper Molar on the right side' in some banal play about hygeine.

        Which is why everyone is arguing that US schools need more funding. Do you know how much it costs to build a molar!
    • Somebody want solutions to the education problem? A few humble suggestions, not easy ones:

      1. Require national standard minimum skills tests for EVERY ACCREDITED MAJOR before a degree is granted. Get professors and top hiring managers to design the test. This helps keep our universities from graduating every single person they possible can. Really, where else can we find a financial incentive for our universities to flunk more people and graduate less of them? Degrees should not be a dime a dozen.

      2. Make grade school HARD. If it takes little Johnny an extra 3 years to graduate, so be it. Holding back brighter kids so the less able ones don't feel bad has to stop. I honestly want my second grader learning Intro Chinese, Solar System basics, Ecology (where litter goes), math that isn't memorization, etc. etc. No more whole days spent on Red+Blue=Purple.

      3. Simple one: Make it VERY HARD to become a teacher. This is what the AMA did for doctors. This gives us better teachers who we know are motivated. It shrinks the teacher pool so we are forced to start paying more for teachers. Sure, it hurts initially when class sizes grow, but it pays off in the long run, and still 40 kids to one great teacher is far better than 10 kids to one lousy teacher.

      These 3 steps could be implemented without spending much taxpayer money, and the benefits would be easy to see after a few years.
    • Re:School (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Fastball (91927)
      I agree up until the sixth grade.

      I passionately hate math (ducking flames now). Any time I see an equation with coefficients and variables, I want to puke. I don't care about trains A and B: they'll get there when they get there. I might have understood Calculus better had my teachers spoken Old English instead. But I was and continue to be highly fluent in algebra, because my mother drilled me until I cried buckets.

      I learned my multiplication tables in the second grade thanks to my mother's patience with a very loud, uncooperative brat, me. Our class would have a competition where a kid would stand up and go up and down the rows of desks and be challenged by each student. My teacher would hold up a card with a multiplication, e.g. 4x4, and the student who answered correctly first would continue down the row. My mother sat me down the night before and went over every multiplication from zero to twelve until I had it.

      I mean burned in folks. The next day when the teacher held up the cards, I didn't see the multiplication, I saw the answer. 4x4 wasn't 4x4. It was 16. I was so quick that next day, I went around the classroom five times before my teacher asked me to sit down and give others a chance. I think he let me go on so long, because he couldn't believe it. I'll never forget that day. It was one of my proudest, most fulfilling days of my life. Mathematics of all things.

      I graduated college with a B.A. in English. I write poetry chapbooks. Literature rocks my world. But I'm the guy that always adds up the scorecard correctly, tallies the stats, and runs the numbers for others.

      Ironically, I was a terrible reader until the fifth grade. I never could put events in sequence correctly (remember?). But my fifth grade teacher, the best I ever had, never let up on me. He worked me, gave me a ton of things to read until I improved. I love to read so much now, I'm in dire need of bookshelves.

      The point is, you have to drill kids when they're young. Parents and teachers alike. IMHO, you have until the sixth grade to educate a kid on the fundamentals: reading, writing, and arithmetic. After that, school is a social call. No high schooler cares more about metaphors or differentials than he does about his social standing. To this day, I don't remember what I studied let alone learned in the seventh and eighth grades, because I was too busy considering tits and cars.

      We in the U.S. need two basic changes to our education system:

      First, drill the absolute shit out of kids from first to sixth grades. Algebra, reading comprehension, and writing composition should be outstanding by the end of the sixth grade. If you think about adulthood, if you can add, subtract, multiply, divide, read, and write well, then you can take care of yourself. It all comes back to these fundamentals.

      Second and just as important, completely reform high school and college curriculums to prepare people for jobs. I firmly believe that if you take two eighteen year old men and run one through a college curriculum and start the other in an apprenticeship or company, the kid outside of the college halls is going to be light years ahead of the collegian after his four years are gone. Colleges as institutions are more enterprising then educational, period. College curriculums are the combo value meals of understanding. I knew intimately that I could not hack it as an engineer or scientist due to my lack of interest/understanding of calculus. But I had to waste away for two semesters of calculus regardless. Same story with requirements completely irrelevant to my interests and strengths. Strip away these requirements and structure a series of classes that revolve around my interests and strengths, and I should have departed college no more than two years after starting.

      I'll end with this important point. I'm afraid of the American job market and its limitations not on the sheer number of jobs but on what we Americans have to take up to earn a decent living. I am lucky enough to make some money writing in addition to my regular gig as a web programmer, but I would love to make a living in a skilled labor trade. Electrician, carpenter, etc. The way I see things--and my parents steered me this way for better or worse--you're gonna have to be a lawyer, manager, or doctor to get by in the years to come. Maybe I'm wrong. We manufacture almost nothing in the U.S. any more. Look around your apartment or house. MADE IN CHINA.

      Our system of education is supposedly geared to turn out knowledgeable workers, but there's only so many of those jobs to go around, right? Not everybody can be a manager. I long for the day when the phrase reads, "The world needs CEOs too."

  • by perry (7046) on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:27PM (#4901457)
    Ben Stein's comments seem to be reasonably accurate, if you read them. We do indeed live in a country with a crippled education system, general contempt for intellectual activity among the bulk of the population, etc. I don't agree with absolutely everything he said, but overall, it is hard to argue.

    All the foul language and no-nothing replies I've seen here in response to his article are evidence for his contentions, by the way.
    • All the foul language and no-nothing replies I've seen here in response to his article are evidence for his contentions, by the way.

      And the delicious irony of it all is that the phrase is "know-nothing". Yes, I'm pedantic. =)
  • 6a. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by RalphTWaP (447267) on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:27PM (#4901466)
    Blockquoth the poster evermore:

    6) While you're at it, discourage respect for law in every possible way. This will dissolve the glue that holds the nation together, and dissuade any long-term thinking. Societies in which the law can be clearly seen to apply to some and not to others are doomed to decay, in terms of innovation and everything else.

    And now for an addendum

    6a. Specifically construct laws so riddled with inaccuracy of purpose, incomprehensibility of intent, impossibility of execution, immorality of effect, and plain lack of common sense, that everyone is criminalized equally, and proven innocent $ub$antially due to their per$onal $olvency. Particularly good results may be achieved if the laws in question are ignored as technicalities by the traditionally moral masses.

    inspiration for this post, and the poster believes the original article, was gained largely through understanding the logical basis of the works of Ayn Rand, all credit as it is due

  • Religion (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 1stflight (48795) on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:28PM (#4901471)
    Ever notice how much our technological edge gets dulled by the fear and power of the religous right? No cloning, stem cell research, animal organ transplant research, all because, "it goes against God's will." To which I say if God had wanted us to be illiterate, cave dwelling, dying at 30 idiots, then we'd all still have fur, and the skyscrapper would be a foriegn as the airplane. Religion has dulled America's edge and will continue to do so, so long as we fail to stop using it for a crutch.
    • Re:Religion (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rabidcow (209019)
      You identify the problem as "the religious right" and then claim that it is "religion." These are not the same thing.

      This is like saying that there's an increase of violece due to insane video game players who are out of touch with reality, so video games are obviously to blame.

      Religion ... a crutch.

      I counter your insightful argument with "athiests are a bunch of poop-throwing monkeys."

      w00t! 10 points!
  • by Doktor Memory (237313) on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:29PM (#4901490) Journal
    9) Develop a suicidal immigration policy that keeps out educated, hardworking men and women from friendly nations and, instead, takes in vast numbers of angry, uneducated immigrants from nations that hate us.
    Uh huh.

    Whatever you might happen to think about our current immigration policy (I don't like it much myself), there's no getting around the fact that this is hyperbolic bullshit. The vast majority [usdoj.gov] of illegal aliens in the US are migrant workers from Mexico. (Following Mexico are El Salvador, Guatamala and Canada. You have to go all the way down to #17 before you find a country with any substantial terrorist activity: our "ally" Pakistan [usdoj.gov].) Say what you will about Mexico, but it is not exactly a hotbed of anti-American radicalism.

    The rest of this article is exactly the sort of mixture of over-stressed common sense and batshit insanity that I would expect from a former Nixon toady. [imdb.com]
    • Oh wait, you think he was talking about legal immigration? He wasn't, but the arguement isn't any better then: according to the most recent statistics [usdoj.gov] provided by the INS, the top five sources of naturalized citizens are:
      1. Mexico
      2. Germany
      3. Phillipines
      4. Italy
      5. Canada
      Not exactly Al Qaeda's hordes there.
  • Stripped down (Score:5, Informative)

    by the_rev_matt (239420) <slashbot AT revmatt DOT com> on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:41PM (#4901595) Homepage
    Stripping out all the reactionary conservative ideology, he actually makes some good points.

    1 - Education, real education particularly science and math as well as history and civics, is critical. I can't see how you could disagree with this.

    2 and 3- Our lawsuit-happy society needs to change. This does not mean "kill all the lawyers" as Shakespeare is so often misquoted as saying. It means discourage frivolous lawsuits and encourage personal responsibility (e.g. if you do something stupid, you don't automatically have the right to sue someone). It also means legislators should have to write laws simply and clearly and prevent loopholes rather than encourage them.

    4 - The emphasis on getting rich through luck/cheating should not be glamorized.

    5 - Corporate leaders should be held responsible for their actions.

    6 - The law matters. If you oppose a law work to change it, don't just ignore. There are some bad cops/lawyers/judges/etc, but the vast majority are hard working decent people. Treat them that way.

    7 - The anti-intelligent attitude of much of popular culture (be it talk radio or eMptyTV) is a Bad Thing(tm).

    8 - Roots are a good thing. People are happier and more productive when they have connections to their town/city/etc.

    9 - Immigration policy is skewed in very stupid ways and needs to be reformed.

    10 - The tax system is broken (I disagree with him about death tax and capital gains, but the rest I agree with).

    11 - Our medical system is totally screwed.

    12 - Science is fundamental.
    • Re:Stripped down (Score:4, Interesting)

      by philovivero (321158) on Monday December 16, 2002 @06:58PM (#4902200) Homepage Journal

      2 and 3- Our lawsuit-happy society needs to change. This does not mean "kill all the lawyers" as Shakespeare is so often misquoted as saying. It means discourage frivolous lawsuits and encourage personal responsibility (e.g. if you do something stupid, you don't automatically have the right to sue someone). It also means legislators should have to write laws simply and clearly and prevent loopholes rather than encourage them.


      Hear hear. Our government actively and explicitly enforces the litigation-happy situation (I assume it makes lawyers, otherwise known as "our government," more money).

      My employer recently stiffed me out of a week's paycheck in Nevada. Looking up Nevada laws, it's actually quite clear he's violated labor law. I contacted the office of the Labor Commissioner and laid out my case. They wrote me back a nice letter saying it looks like I can afford a lawyer, so they're not going to do their job (enforce labor laws) since I can afford to be a litigation-happy citizen.

      I'm stunned.

      And then the recent /. story about the guy who was stiffed in an Ebay auction, and all the law enforcement officials said: "Naw, this case is too small. We're not going to do our jobs." Amazing. Citizens are encouraged to take matters into their own hands by way of paying lawyers.

      You'd almost think lawyers wrote our current set of obviously fucked-up laws (yes, I'm aware that laws really are written by lawyers).
  • by unfortunateson (527551) on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:45PM (#4901621) Journal
    Unfortunately for Neal Stephenson's forecasting record, it may no longer be fast pizza delivery (Domino's got sued (see Stein comment #3)), or software (lots of the kewl open source stuff is, indeed overseas -- can you say linux? [I can't pronounce it right no matter how many times I try -- leenooks?]), but it's still entertainment.

    1) Fun: We still produce more films than anyone but India, and not many people outside of the subcontinent watch those anyway. A substantial amount of the television shows (Emeril!) music, video games, theme parks, etc. still come from the good ol' US of A.

    2) Pharmaceuticals -- now careful, I'm not lumping these with Entertainment. Prescription drugs are mostly innovated here.

    3) Microprocessors -- sure they're manufactured where the labor is cheap, but Intel, Moto, IBM... they're developing the stuff here.

    4) Industrial Design -- The shiny new cars that are manufactured by foreign companies use US design teams. Why do you think Daimler bought Chrysler?
  • by cbuskirk (99904) on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:45PM (#4901625)
    Most of that article is rightwing propganda with a little on tech to gloss it over. Here is a list of ways we can do to help....

    1. The duh answer of them all of course is increased school funding. I relize however, if everyone got a decent education, we would have very few people willing to join the military and those who did would join one loaded with officers, and no cannon fodder, I mean elisted men.

    2. Not everyone needs to get a four year degree. There needs to be many more professional opportunities for people with 2 year degrees. It would increase tax revenue to have a better paid population, and reduce the burden on four year universities who can better use the money on people who need to spend the time in college.

    3. Companies that spend a sigifigant portion (~75%) of thier R&D money in Univeristy based Labs would recive an huge tax break.

    4. Medical Advancement: Place a 20 blackout on the production of generics and in return drug companies must reduce prices by 75%. New drug prices are high in this country because a company must recoup the billions it spent on R&D in the first 3 years to make any sort of profit, because after 5 it can be made by anyone dirt cheap.

    This give companies much more capital and incentive to innovate instead of copy what the other guy did and sell it cheaper.

    5. Government Funded Hard Science: If we rely only on corperations to fund research, then we are going to be limmited to innovations that will make a profit, and we will be worthless as a civilization.
    • 1. The duh answer of them all of course is increased school funding. I relize however, if everyone got a decent education, we would have very few people willing to join the military and those who did would join one loaded with officers, and no cannon fodder, I mean elisted men.

      There is a strong correlation between increasing expenditures and decreasing results, if you look at a time series for any random school district. There is no correlation between expenditures and results, if you look at panel data. As H.L. Menken (sp?) said, ``For every problem, there is an answer which is simple, attractive, and wrong.'' I think you've found it for this problem.

      The answer here is for parents to demand more of their children, and more of their children's teachers. Given that most public schools are bureaucracies, they'll have to home school.

      2. Not everyone needs to get a four year degree. There needs to be many more professional opportunities for people with 2 year degrees. It would increase tax revenue to have a better paid population, and reduce the burden on four year universities who can better use the money on people who need to spend the time in college.

      You came so close on this one! Universities shouldn't be training construction managers (Purdue has a four-year program in that!). We need to encourage non-university, non-bachelors-degree education for crafts and trades.

      The current system cheats everyone. The crafts and trades people, and the engineers, have to suffer through a lot of distribution requirements which preserve the illusion that they are getting a university education. This means that the classes must be dumbed down to be accessible to the unscholarly and uninterested (notice I didn't say stupid). The result is that the engineers don't get the in-depth techincal education they need, and the scholars don't get the education they need either.

      3. Companies that spend a sigifigant portion (~75%) of thier R&D money in Univeristy based Labs would recive an huge tax break. 4. Medical Advancement: Place a 20 blackout on the production of generics and in return drug companies must reduce prices by 75%. New drug prices are high in this country because a company must recoup the billions it spent on R&D in the first 3 years to make any sort of profit, because after 5 it can be made by anyone dirt cheap. This give companies much more capital and incentive to innovate instead of copy what the other guy did and sell it cheaper. 5. Government Funded Hard Science: If we rely only on corperations to fund research, then we are going to be limmited to innovations that will make a profit, and we will be worthless as a civilization.

      Are (3) and (5) contradictory? Probably not. On the other hand, given the amount of damage that corporate funding seems to be doing to academic research, your (3) might be counter productive. Finally, (4) is just a re-jiggering of the patent laws, and while it might be a good start, it isn't nearly far-reaching enough.

      Furthermore, the US has been subsidising drug development and low drug prices in Canada and Europe by allowing high drug prices here to drive innovation. As long as we're chasing pie in the sky, let's force those socialist free riders to start paying their fair share!

  • by webster (22696) on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:50PM (#4901655)
    We see this all the time. People see terrible things going on and think that all they have to do is point at it while loudly raising alarm, and they have contributed to the solution. Well, it ain't true. Yeah, the education system sucks, but it isn't because those running it want it to suck. TV is a vast wasteland, and always has been, but what, if anything, can be done to improve it? Even offering a solution is dangerous enough, but fixing a social problem without a plan will certainly lead to disaster.

    Utopians consistently excel in discovering faults, but those who actually try to fix them usually end up with a situation far worse than the one they were so alarmed about.
    • I'm a utopian... Anyway, there are solutions to solve all our problems. Most of them developed over the last 5 years.

      Pointing out the problems so loudly that you can no longer deny them is the first step in building a discussion, which is necessary in finding the proper solution. Without discussion, which our current political system discourages, we end up debating the same issues for decades and get nowhere. Why wasn't our school system a hot issue for debate at the last election? Because we're too concerned with money. And I believe if you look at all these problems people keep pointing out you will find that all of them are related by 1 thing, money. People sell out and take the get-rich-quick scheme because that is the goal of American life. If we weren't persuaded by money, if we didn't cater to money or care about money we wouldn't be posting on this article and our school system would be designed properly for our kids. Unfortunately I think the only way to get our minds off of money is to do away with it completely and instead use computers, databases and networks to manage our resources efficiently.
  • by ruriruri (566567) on Monday December 16, 2002 @06:06PM (#4901772) Homepage
    We may have lost the technology race, but America still has the junk-food edge! From high-fat/low-nutrient chocolate bars to high-carbohydrate corn-syrup carbonated beverages, America clearly leads the world in the production and consumption of unbelievably shitty pseudo-foods! We must not allow the Soviets to close the junk-food gap.

    Unfortunately, one area in which there appears to be no gap is the right-wing rhetoric arms race.

  • by st. augustine (14437) on Monday December 16, 2002 @06:15PM (#4901779)
    We're well on our way to hell in a handbasket. What would it take to get us the rest of the way there?
    1. Blame all problems with the educational system on greedy teachers' unions. Do not provide sufficient funding for building upkeep and course materials, let alone enough to attract a wider range of more highly qualified teachers. Count on philanthropic parents in rich neighborhoods to chip in to keep their kids' schools going, and let schools in poor neighborhoods go to hell.
    2. Allow large corporations to buy unlimited influence in government. Have any legislation that affects a particular industry be written by the lobbyists for that industry's entrenched players. Assume that anyone currently making a profit has a God-given right to their business model, and structure the intellectual property laws appropriately. Claim marketing expenses as R&D.
    3. Support a company's right to falsify evidence in favor of their products and suppress evidence against them. If the evidence that a company's products or processes do more harm than good has finally become too overwhelming for them to cover up, shoehorn loopholes into unrelated laws to protect them.
    4. Treat CEOs as celebrities, even when all they've done is preside over tanking companies and collect golden parachutes. Confuse blind luck with well-deserved rewards and ruthlessness with business sense. Pretend that we live in a society with equal opportunity, and salute those whose successes have been handed to them on a silver platter as though they'd earned them.
    5. Encourage companies to avoid taxes by creating shell offices in Bahamanian PO boxes. Reward them with open-ended government contracts with no cost auditing.
    6. Do your best to keep 50% of your productive population out of the workplace. Continue to pretend that a single-income family is viable in today's economy. Provide no support for working parents. Discourage women from intellectual, innovative, or creative pursuits.
    7. Discourage cultural and social diversity as much as possible. When immigrants absolutely can't be kept out, do whatever you can to make them, and their citizen children, feel unwelcome and unvalued. (Consider bringing back the educational and religious policies of forced assimilation that worked so well with Native Americans.) Presume in the face of all historical evidence that the children of uneducated immigrants will be unable to contribute to society. Assume that America has nothing to learn from the rest of the world, and do your best to make sure it doesn't.
    8. Enact a tax system that encourages the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer. Shift as much of the tax burden as possible onto the middle class. Make sure that the wealthy have plenty of ways to exclude their income from taxation, and that the less wealthy have as little access to capital as possible. Encourage them to go into debt, and allow consumer lending companies to set themselves up for a fall approaching the one the Japanese banking system's going through.
    9. Take as a given that nothing that works (or doesn't work) in the rest of the world could possibly have applicability to America, unless of course it agrees with your preconceived notion of the direction America should be going. If anyone tries to suggest that something the Europeans or Japanese are doing might be a good idea, accuse them of being socialist or communist. Where possible, try to confuse France with the USSR.
    10. Pretend that a health care system that leaves tens of millions of citizens uninsured is "socialized". (Use "socialized" as a dirty word to describe any system that might actually cover all Americans.) Skew what medical care there is toward prolonging the agonies of the terminally ill. Discourage preventative medicine and expect all medical problems to be solved with pharmaceutical "silver bullets".

    My list need not end here but I got tired of typing. And anyway, I even agree with one or two of Mr. Stein's points. But just as Mr. Stein did I realized that my list was already the program of many of our elected officials. (Hmm.)

  • by LoRider (16327) on Monday December 16, 2002 @06:26PM (#4901864) Homepage Journal
    One of the reasons my fare country, the United States of America, sucks is because of education. Our education system is eroding more and more every year.

    Why?

    That's actually quite obvious. There are people, probably all neo-cons, that want privatization of our schools. They are vehemently against anything resembling socialism and will fight to the death to privatize everything.

    Capitalism can only succeed if we have a mix between private corporations and some socialist programs. Schools should be available to everyone without the contamination of corporations, libraries should available to all, health care to everyone.

    So the plan is let the public school system crumble to the ground, show the success of school vouchers for private schools, make public schools private. It's so freaking obvious it's not even worth debating. The Republicans want everything to be driven by capitalism and will stop at nothing to achieve it. The Democrats are too scared to do anything about it for fear of not getting re-elected. The average American doesn't have the time to worry about it because they are working 50-60 hours a week with 1 week vacation and trying to figure out how to afford sending their kids to college.

    I hate to say it but we are fucked. We are going to be fucked for quite some time, until the average dumbass figures out he's working harder than his dad did and making less money and paying more taxes while corporations don't pay shit in taxes. It's only a matter of time before the shit hits the fan but I am afraid it will be a few years before the dumbasses realize the situation and a few more years to get it fixed.
  • My Take (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DaytonCIM (100144) on Monday December 16, 2002 @06:35PM (#4901951) Homepage Journal
    Allow schools to fall into useless decay.

    Let's first address the physical decay facing our nation's schools. The current conditions facing most students and teachers are appalling. We spend more money decorating the White House for annual holidays than most school districts budget for building maintenance.

    Do not expect students to know the basics of mathematics, chemistry and physics. Working closely with the teachers' unions, make sure that you dumb down standards so that children who make the most minimal effort still get by with flying colors.

    Standardized testing and federal guidelines must challenge our nation's students. In the last 15 years, federal regulations and state authorities have enacted a wave of PC rules that force schools to combine students of varying learning abilities into one large class. In that class, is expected that a student with a reading ability of an 8th grader to complete the same work as a student with a reading ability of a 12th grader.

    What happened to Remedial and Honors classes?

    Encourage the making of laws and rules by trial lawyers and sympathetic judges, especially through class actions. Bypass the legislative mechanisms that involve elected representatives and a president. This will stop--or at least greatly slow down--innovation, as corporations and individuals hesitate to explore new ideas for fear of getting punished (or regulated to death) by litigation for any misstep, no matter how slight, in the creation of new products and services. Make sure that lawsuits against drugmakers are especially encouraged so that the companies are afraid to develop new lifesaving drugs, lest they be sued for sums that will bankrupt them. Make trial lawyers and judges, not scientists, responsible for the flow of new products and services.

    There is no question that this country needs to address Tort reform. In addition, we as a nation need to recognize that regulation is not what the founding fathers had in mind when writing the Constitution. I don't need the FCC protecting my children or me from televised orgies; I am most capable of regulating my children and myself. I don't need lawmakers asking what is popular with the country. I need lawmakers that are not afraid to do what is right, even if it is not what is popular.

    Create a culture that blames the other guy for everything and discourages any form of individual self-restraint or self-control. Promote litigation to punish tobacco companies on the theory that they compel innocent people to smoke. Make it second nature for someone who is overweight to blame the restaurant that served him fries.

    We must encourage and teach our children to take responsibility for their actions. Simple as that. If you drink and drive it is not the responsibility of the bartender, it is your responsibility.

    Sneer at hard work and thrift. Encourage the belief that all true wealth comes from skillful manipulation and cunning, or from sudden, brilliant and lucky strokes that leave the plodding, ordinary worker and saver in the dust. Make sure that society's idols are men and women who got rich from being sexy in public or through gambling or playing tricks, not from hard work or patience. Make the citizenry permanently envious and bewildered about where real success comes from.

    Continue making music videos that display a non-reality. For example, Jay-Z does not make 10 figures a year and selling 10 millions albums does not make you rich: ask TLC. In addition, be honest and open about the .com millionaires and the damage wrought by that economic boom.

    Hold the managers of corporations to extremely lax standards of conduct and allow them to get off with a slap on the wrist when they betray the trust of shareholders. This will discourage thrift and investment and ensure that Americans will have far less capital to work with than other societies, while simultaneously developing that contempt for law and social standards that is the hallmark of failing nations. Hold the management of labor unions to no ethical standards.

    Halliburton. WorldCom. Enron. United Airlines. But why are we upset? Why are we surprised? This is not the first time that CEOs have raped us. Oil companies did it in the 70s. Savings and Loans did it in 80s.

    While you're at it, discourage respect for law in every possible way. This will dissolve the glue that holds the nation together, and dissuade any long-term thinking. Societies in which the law can be clearly seen to apply to some and not to others are doomed to decay, in terms of innovation and everything else.

    I don't imagine that a 31 year-old black woman who shoplifts $5100 in merchandise from Macys would receive probation and community service. I don't imagine that anyone but a star baseball player would be charged and convicted of DUI, possession, and assault 4 different times before seeing the inside of a jail cell. I don't imagine that anyone but a star basketball player could physical assault their coach/boss, and then be offered a 7 figure yearly income with another team/job.

    Encourage a mass culture that spits on intelligence and study and instead elevates drug use, coolness through sex and violence, and contempt for school. As children learn to be stupid instead of smart, the national intelligence base needed for innovation will simply vanish into MTV-land.

    It is sad when video games outsell books. It is deplorable that most teenage boys can spew more slang for a woman's genital region, than he can name past Presidents.

    Mock and belittle the family. Provide financial incentives to people willing to live an isolated existence, vulnerable and frightened. This guarantees that men and women of sufficient character to bring about innovation will be psychologically stifled from an early age.

    Why do my wife and I pay a higher percentage of our income in taxes than single people?

    Enact a tax system that encourages class antagonism and punishes saving, while rewarding indebtedness, frivolity and consumption. Tax the fruits of labor many times:

    First tax it as income.
    Then tax it as real or personal property.
    Then tax it as capital gains.
    Then tax it again, at a staggeringly high level, at death.

    This way, Americans are taught that only fools save, and that it is entirely proper for us to have the lowest savings rate in the developed world. This will deprive us of much-needed capital for new investment, for innovation and our own personal aspirations. It will compel us to ask foreigners for ever more capital and allow them to own more of America. It will also promote an attitude of carelessness about the future and, once again, encourage disrespect for law.


    There isn't anything I can add here. Ben Stein is dead on. As a young couple and making over $100K a year, my wife and I still don't know how we are going to afford a house, retirement, etc... It sounds far-fetched, but given taxes and more taxes, there is very little that we can save.

    Have a socialized medical system that scrimps on badly needed drugs and procedures, resorts to only the cheapest practices and discourages drug companies from developing new drugs by not paying them enough to cover their costs of experimentation, trial and error.

    If you don't think we have socialized medicine in the US, then explain to me what an HMO is.

    Elevate mysticism, tribalism, shamanism and fundamentalism--and be sure to exclude educated, hardworking men and women--to an equal status with technology in the public mind. Make sure that, in order to pay proper (and politically correct) respect to all different ethnic groups in America, you act as if science were on an equal footing with voodoo and history with ethnic fable.

    Because it is important that we return school prayer. Forget that schools cannot afford textbooks and some children cannot afford lunch, we have to work together to return school prayer. School prayer will make everything better.

    And make sure that we give equal time to Darwin and the Book of Genesis when discussing the origins of the Universe.

    But I stopped at a dozen because I realized that this is already, in large measure, the program of so many of our elected representatives. The debauchery of our tort system is already in place, and the rest of the agenda is under way.

    Enough said. Out.
  • by deego (587575) on Monday December 16, 2002 @06:59PM (#4902214)
    Well, anyone who reads yahoo editorials knows that yahoo seems to have gone more rightwing than wall street, what with the likes of Ann Coulter filling the ranks fo columnists.

    let me just translate a few points from the column

    [1] please allow us to take exemptions for sending our children to private religious schools, which admit only certain religions, teach religion in school, and teach creationism.

    [2] pleaase allow law to be made only by "nonsympathetic" judges, and only by big corporations. and please help us get rid of the scum of America by putting them on deathrow.

    [3]Keep guns legal and keep the governemtn in the pockets of tobacco companies and NRA. never mind that our country has become the primary source of guns throughout the world--including places like Columbia. OH, and while you are at it, make cd players and debuggers illegal , they can be used to commit "crimes".

    [4] please introduce a flat tax --everyone should be charged $100, no matter how much they earn. After all the government doesn't do more work for the rich, does it?

    Never mind the fact that in a supply-and-demand society, it is the rich who will want to pay the $100 for building a road, while the poor will want to spend his $100 on preventing self-starvation rather than getting that road built. Forget supply-and-demand. whoever said that that's what governs a free market??

    [5] let me try to coopt a "left-wing" agenda here, because it is popular nowadays. Why not slip in a barb against (the nearly outlawed) labor unions?

    [6] more power to cops and ashcroft please. and it is the drugs that kill, not guns.

    [7] Darn, did you read the bible before having sex.? Note that it's that what causes all the violence and deaths, not the guns.

    [8] Family values! now! Oust gays and outlaw prostitution. oh wait, already done.

    [9] continue allowing big industry to manipulate our immuigraiton policty to make evryone believe ther'es shortage of high-tech workers.

    [10] Flat taxes! now!

    [11] darn, out drug companies are not making enough. They need to be able to patent more stuff, people's genes, ancient medicines, oh, done, cool, hmm, anything left that i can think of? Body parts? yeah!

    [12] The only allowed religioun should be a monotheistic christianity. And the worst religion of all should be atheism. In God We Trust.

    List doesn't end here....but i repeat: our country will go to hell if we don't do something about these nonchristian "scientific" types soon.

  • by Mittermeyer (195358) on Monday December 16, 2002 @07:00PM (#4902235) Homepage
    One of the biggest problems from my perspective is that the entire purpose of patent law has been undermined by the expansion beyond the original intent of trade secrets and copyrights.

    Trade secrets has allowed companies to essentially patent the unpatentable and protect concepts and ideas far past the patent limit.

    Copyrights are even worse in that they have allowed companies to publish software and legally protect it without actually publishing the source code.

    Consider Microsoft's successful squashing of any 'unauthorized' books regarding API calls. To me Microsoft would be truly covered if all the API calls were actually published and therefore copyrighted, but they are not. So what is covered is not actually known to the public or described in any public way, yet Microsoft can continue to have them and be legally protected by just copyrighting the distribution of the executables.

    This is an abomination of the entire point of having a patent or a copyright system- to encourage innovation by giving the user exclusive use and rights legally protected for a time in exchange for having the body of knowledge published publically.

    Why bother to patent when trade secrets or copyright can protect you longer with no public release of knowledge or concepts?

    We have drastically erred on the side of use and rights without the fair exchange of public knowledge. Until we fix this part our innovative tech base will continue to suffer.
  • by renoX (11677) on Monday December 16, 2002 @07:11PM (#4902383)
    I'm a foreigner (French), so of course my external POV is biased but I disagree on several points on the article:
    - point 3. Promote litigation to punish tobacco companies on the theory that they compel innocent people to smoke.

    Sorry, but this is very bad exemple, while I agree that in the US there are too many litigations, I also believe that tobacco companies do try to compel innocent people to smoke by running ads targetted to young teen.
    In France, after a long battle, the problem has been solved in a radical way: any advertisement for tobacco is forbidden in any media.

    - point 12. Uh? I've always seen American people as being in general higly religious which apparently haven't prevented the US from being the richest nation.
    I don't really thinks that the nature of the religion is important wether it is catholicism, mysticim, or other things (except sects of course)

    But I'm an atheist, so I'm not very knowledgeable into religions and I don't care, to be honest.

    Also the article somehow insists too much on the technical side of the affair: US has not have the best student or best researchers for a long time, still the US is still the first nation on a big number of field, why?
    Because the transformation of new idea into industries which sells works very well in the US whereas in the other country usually it doesn't work so well.

    And another thing: the article didn't list the patents as a highly dangourous thing: they could slow down inovation very much..

  • by Mittermeyer (195358) on Monday December 16, 2002 @07:20PM (#4902456) Homepage
    Any society will respond to what is valued either through the marketplace or socially. Ours is no exception.

    We do not value little smart gadgets like the Japanese do, so we do not make them as well or as consistently. The Japanese do not have per capita square footage like we do, so anything that gives them more capability in a small space is prized. Electronics are also a very profitable item to ship, so it was an excellent arena for the Japanese to specialize in.

    Being behind in consumer electronics is not new. Our broadcast standards have been absolutely behind most of the world for decades, for instance. But a clear picture wasn't as important to us and so we have lagged until HDTV.

    On the other hand we feel a need to have a strong military. So we put our money into all sorts of hideous toys that are so far ahead of everyone else's that Pax Americana is an absolute fact. No matter how much Japan or France or Russia or China may want to, they simply cannot build an F-22 for a long time to come.

    Unfortunately F-22s do not readily translate into consumer products, but items like BOMARC and B-52s translated into the 747, still a world-beater product.

    I'm not suggesting that the military-industrial complex is our technical salvation, but since we prioritize and pay for it we get that kind of technical edge. If we want innovation in other sectors of our economy, we will need to prioritize that, either as a government initiative or the natural course of market desire.

    And we need to stop whining if we don't absolutely dominate every global industrial endeavor. As long as we can offload the commoditization to Japan or the Little Dragons and keep the innovation in-house, who cares if we all have Playstations instead of Ataris?
  • by FrankieBoy (452356) on Monday December 16, 2002 @07:22PM (#4902469)
    As any good conspiracy theorist knows the single event that gave the US its' technical edge was the UFO crash at Roswell in '47. The recovered craft has been feeding tech into American industry for the last 50 years. There's just the anti-gravity and propulsion stuff left. Oh well, we'll just have to wait until the next crash.
  • With the emerging protectionism of some predatory companies on the expence of newstarters the innovation regarding to computers have almost grinded to a halt. Damn, our computers is still based on 1950 technoloygy when better ways exists but no one seems willing to take a chance and implement it with such entrenched companies as Intel and Microsoft at the helm. The USA needs aggressive enforcement of antitrust, oligopol and kill the DMCA in its cradle. The DMCA pretty much cements certain oligopols and monopolies by law.

    All these stupid decisions gives the ball to other countries to play with. I think the USA can very well go the same way as Japan did in the 90's. With current leadership in the states that is dangerous as hell. Bad economy? Start a war and focus the citizens on another direction.

    It happens right now!
  • by jgardn (539054) <jgardn@alumni.washington.edu> on Tuesday December 17, 2002 @03:10AM (#4905584) Homepage Journal
    Businesses accept a certain level of risk when they invest their money in things to grow their business.

    Technology is one of the most dangerous risks to take. Not only are you pouring money into something that has never been done before, but you are doing it for a product that has never been created before. Usually, the results of your investment will not be seen for several years or more.

    Ben Stein is right on the money. Those things that liberals want to do -- uproot our society, change the way everyone lives over night, and throw away everything we built our country on -- means that the future is unpredictable.

    Conservatives have had it right all along. We should be building on the past, not tearing it down and starting from scratch.

Simplicity does not precede complexity, but follows it.

Working...