Many American students are all but knocked out of the race toward a graduate science degree before their 13th birthday. To get on the advanced math track in high school, you need to complete algebra in the eighth grade. This is standard practice in affluent communities but rare to nonexistent in many low-income schools. Then students must advance through calculus—another subject more available to the privileged—by their senior year of high school. Then they must navigate the complex college admissions process and come up with an increasingly large amount of money to pay tuition. Then they have to slog through huge, impersonal freshman lecture courses that are designed to weed students out. Only then can the few students who remain advance toward science careers.
While I look forward to online classes making higher education more accessible in the coming years, I also worry about the cultural shifts that need to happen if America is going to stay competitive in the future. Parents need to understand the importance of motivating their children to aspire to bigger and better things. That can’t be taught in the classroom alone.
If a university-level education can be offered for little-to-no-cost to anyone anywhere in the world, we need to make sure that our kids take advantage of that opportunity because at some point, people won’t need to come to America to be successful.