…if you happened to be at a huge-land-grant institution in the past 7 years or so, you’ve heard some mutterings about a very secret situation. Science graduate students… highly trained, highly skilled, highly smart and highly unable to find a good job. The kind of job they were promised they’d have if only, if only, they were really smart, studied hard, eschewed the typical pleasures of high school and college life to embrace the glamorous, secure life of a scientists. This was whispered about on campuses and in publications directed at scientists.
Weird huh? How did this happen? Are we graduating incompetent people? Hardly. But somehow, we keep hearing from politicians, educations, and folks in the business community that we need scientists and engineers. There is a dearth of talent. We need to improve science education! We need to inspire kids!
Looks like the main stream message is finally starting to catch up the the reality: We don’t have jobs for all our scientists. Got that? We can stop the mea culpa about not having enough scientists. We have too many, and we can’t give these people the jobs they’ve been preparing for for 10-14 years.
This doesn’t diminish the role of science education by a long shot, but it should make us reconsider what science education is for and why it is important. The key focus should be science literacy for citizens. There is of course, nothing new about this, but it is a good time to reflect on our priorities. Do we need another unemployed nuclear scientsits, or do we want to have an informed citizenry that avoids ghosts, gouls, and the alignment of stars in making policy decisions?