The American dream has attributed to many successful nations and successful businesses, all of which were created on three things: education, people, and dreams.
By opening our nation’s doors to the people prepared to build new lives and adhere to the Constitution, the U.S. has transformed into a stronger, more vibrant nation. By investing heavily in public places education, the world transformed both natives and newcomers into literate, numerate Americans willing to give rise to a professional industrial economy. And by investing in scientific research, the world combined and advanced new ideas, many out there new Americans, in new approaches to build the most productive, prosperous nation the world has even seen.
However, these three pillars of the American dream, education and people, along with the investment in scientific research that is the wellspring of latest ideas, new capabilities and new items, are typical endangered.
Despite record low unemployment and dire shortages of engineers and technical skills, immigration can be regarded as a threat to American jobs and public safety. Public schools, in which the American ideals, background patriotism were instilled in most of us, are somehow considered a threat to those ideals as well as an unearned gift to ungrateful immigrants. Meanwhile, scientific research can be regarded as a luxury best left towards the private sector.
Historically, America has been a dynamic society that embraced change and celebrated innovation. What is different now? At risk of gross oversimplification, the simple answer is: fear.
The apex of American power and prosperity after World War II was heightened with the catastrophes which in fact had befallen most in the world: Europe and Japan ruined; Russia drained; and China divided concerning how you can recover its lost greatness. It took a very long time, but everybody swept up. Three generations of nearly continuous growth and prosperity allowed us to neglect fundamentals and paper over deep divisions inside our society. Now, the assumption of American supremacy as well as an ever-improving future isn’t so assured. Frightening indeed.
A natural reaction to this fear would be to carry on the defensive by wanting to freeze the status quo and pine for a brighter past: Stop immigration, protect incumbent industries and jobs, cut government spending whenever we can, including spending for education and scientific research. Individually, these reactions are debatable, but collectively they are often disastrous.
To sustain our global leadership, we must do a greater portion of what built our leadership, not less. We must reform our immigration policies to limit abuses while welcoming those who bring new talent and energy, with the need to adopt American ideals and contribute to our nation’s prosperity.
We should also increase our investment in and also the quality of public education to assimilate new Americans and build the technically and mathematically literate workforce we’d like so desperately. To do so, this investment must emphasize science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education whatsoever levels, from grade school to varsity.
Additionally, we should increase our national investment in fundamental scientific research. This principals are too long lasting, too costly and sometimes too risky for the private sector to take on. Knowledge is universal; whenever we don’t do the research, somebody else will, and we will be left in a permanent technological disadvantage.
China has announced an idea for supremacy in multiple strategic technologies. Top U.S. scientists are increasingly being lured to China and Europe by robust, sustained research funding, state-of-the-art laboratories and highly skilled support staff.
To maintain our competitiveness, the U.S. must recommit on the formula that served us so well: people, education and ideas that stem from buying scientific research. Our national security and national prosperity be determined by it.