June 22, 2008

Top Research Universities: The View from Shanghai

Here's a different ranking of top research universities compiled at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, based on Nobel Laureates, citations, etc. (This is not a list of most desirable undergraduate colleges -- it includes entities like Rockefeller U. that don't have undergrad colleges.)

In 2007, The top 20 included 17 American colleges, Oxford, Cambridge, and the U. of Tokyo at #20. The highest continental European university (ETH Zurich) was at #27, the highest French college was at #39, and the highest German school at #53. No Chinese or Indian universities are in the top 100 on this Chinese list.

This Chinese list seems less chauvinistically biased than the London Times rankings I cited in tonight's VDARE article (Harvard #1 in both, but Stanford is #2 on the Chinese list vs. #19 on the English list, behind a number of obscure provincial colleges in England). Because it's a better list, it supports the point I made in VDARE even more strongly than the previous list did: that America's exclusive universities are now enormously prestigious relative to Germany's and the rest of the world's.

German colleges that would have dominated the list 100 years ago have been hit hard by sincere, leftist anti-elitism. The same thing happened to most French universities after 1968, except for some small Ecoles. In contrast, CCNY, which famously shifted to open admissions with disastrous effects, is close to the exception that proves the rule that American colleges largely ignored their own leftist rhetoric and refused to follow their European counterparts into egalitarian anti-exclusivity.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

45 comments:

no man's land said...

Interestng stuff, Steve, but proofread that last paragraph for errors, i.e. "more less" and "university" when you want the plural.

headache said...

Good points Steve. Germany has achieved the intellectual turnaround, and there are measures in place to re-achieve the top slots. 4 Universities have been credited as Elite Universities and receive copious additional funding. Another 10 have also been slated with extra bucks. These unis are also allowed to select their own students. Before all selections were done by a central planning unit in Dortmund, which was a socialist construct introduced by Willy Brandt. This redistribution of funding to the more elite universities (pretty much those who used to be famous) will mean that many of the newer universities established by the socialists will end up becoming Fachhochschulen (colleges). Traditionally excellent universities such as TU Dresden (where the Diesel motor and many thermodynamic concepts were developed) are consciously increasing the level of difficulty regardless of the fallout in an attempt to regain the top slots. The German government has woken up to the fact that its better to have fewer world class graduates than many average "academics". The socialist parties (SPD; Greens, Communists) and the 68 crowd in the halls of learning are trying to slam on the brakes but eventually the elite universities are going to come through again because business and government research organizations, departments and ministries are demanding quality graduates.

Ian Lewis said...

The question is why have American Universities surpasses European and Asian ones when our High Schools are generally unimpressive?

The answer: Competition within a relatively Free Market.

Anonymous said...

"German colleges that would have dominated the list 100 years ago have been hit hard by sincere, leftist anti-elitism."

Germany's genocide against its smartest minority group probably didn't do much to help German colleges either, although German Jewish refugees certainly boosted the status of American colleges.

Second Anonymous

Anonymous said...

Of course, losing two world wars plus the stifling effects of Naziism and Communism didn't exactly help the German universities either.

Cyd the Kid said...

In 2007, The top 20 included 17 American colleges, Oxford, Cambridge, and the U. of Tokyo at #20. The highest continental European university (ETH Zurich) was at #27, the highest French college was at #39, and the highest German school at #53. No Chinese or Indian universities are in the top 100 on this Chinese list.

Does this not strike people as odd? Especially in light of all this "Indian IQ" talk?

Robert said...

I know several kids who were mechanically inclined and wanted to go into areas like Tool and Die or Auto Mechanics but their parents forced them to go into white collar majors in college. The kids knew that they weren't smart in the ways needed for white collar work and we did have one of the best community colleges in the country for blue collar training near by but they still took majors like Business and Accounting. Other friends with similiar interests did go into Tool and Die and other such areas. Today the kids I knew who went into areas like Tool and Die are making much more money and are more successful than the ones who wanted to but didn't.

J. said...

The view from Tel Aviv University: All listings rely on past achievements, such as a Nobel is awarded for work done a decade or teo before. The prestige of an university can linger on for many years after it is no longer deserved. Recognition arrives about ten - fifteen years later. Come back in 2020.

Elzair said...

Steve, I do not think you fully understand the selection criteria of the Ivy League. Malcolm Gladwell has a good article about the Ivy Leagues here. This would also explain the elites' dismissal of IQ, since it is not important above a certain point.

Half Sigma said...

Education is one of our major exports.

The Chinese send us three hundred LCD televisions, and in exchange we give one of their students a crappy education.

Sounds like a good deal for the U.S.

The only downside is that the engineering departments at all universities are now dominated by foreigners, and American students don't feel comfortable pursuing such majors because who wants to be the only white American student in the advanced linear algebra class?

Anonymous said...

It is my understanding that these elite universities receive massive government subsidies for research as well as generous alumni donations. No wonder they attract big gun researchers (who have no interest in any students except the grad students who do their scut work)!

Mencius Moldbug said...

Isn't it interesting how closely this data tracks the history of world domination?

You have a small trace result from the 19th when Britain ruled the world. But most of your signal is fro the US - and it is not just from the US, but from, um, the North. "Don't mention the war!"

Then there are France and Germany playing harpsichord somewhere in the background. Italy is under the noise floor, but could probably be reconstructed by more sensitive equipment. And so on...

Leonard said...

To expand on what Moldbug said: there's a second theory you should consider here. It is that rankings of universities track not their educational achievements, whatever those may be, but power. This should be most clearly seen with international students, but it should also apply within any given country.

So, the reason kids want to go to Harvard (or more aptly, that their parents want them to), is not because Harvard is good per se, although it is quite good enough. Rather it is because at Harvard they will rub shoulders with currently powerful people, and the people who will be powerful in the future. In doing so, it is hoped, that they will be inspired to want power, themselves, and pursue it. Which, of course, even the more idealistic kids will be quite pleased to do if it is called "making a difference" or "working for change" or several other euphemisms. The less idealistic kids already know they want power for its own sake, and need no such obfuscation.

So, the international extension of this theory states that the reason nobody goes to German universities any more, except maybe some Germans, is not that they ejected and killed all their best professors 60-70 years ago, but that going to these places will not get you any power in the world. Now, and in the future. The best it might get you is a good shot at political power in Germany. But so what? Who wants that?

By contrast, consider the position of, oh, say, a minor princeling in Saudi Arabia. Where would you go for your undergraduate or graduate degree? Germany? Or the US? What considerations would there be? How might one best claw one's way to power in the House of Saud?

Anonymous said...

Steve,
The Germans aren't exactly shabby in the intellectual department; I often see in your posts a praising of Jewish I.Q. and a tendency to ignore the powerhouses of Europe (Marilyn Vos Savant is of German and Italian ancestry for example. Reading about her and her husbands' ancestry is fascinating.)

Anyways, Moldbug's take is a fascinating one. I have a cousin who is a Harvard grad as was his father before him. They are accountants, but not just any accountants. Of Italian and French noble blood, they run a large firm that caters to the uber wealthy in a major California city.

Truth said...

"merican students don't feel comfortable pursuing such majors because who wants to be the only white American student in the advanced linear algebra class?"

Or maybe they just aren't smart enough?

rec1man said...

Cyd the Kid said...

In 2007, The top 20 included 17 American colleges, Oxford, Cambridge, and the U. of Tokyo at #20. The highest continental European university (ETH Zurich) was at #27, the highest French college was at #39, and the highest German school at #53. No Chinese or Indian universities are in the top 100 on this Chinese list.

Does this not strike people as odd? Especially in light of all this "Indian IQ" talk?

---

This list ranks colleges by post-graduate education and research

Post graduate education in India is pretty fucked up
even in the IITs

The claim to fame of the IITs is this
the under-graduates get a grade-A education

Each IIT was set up with US, German, UK and Russian assistance to reflect the curriculum and teaching of their top engineering colleges. This was done in 1958

I submit that under-graduate education in IITs is far better than under-graduate education in US

In US, the faculty does research and teaches part time MS and PhD students
Undergrad students get a TA from India or China

Whereas in the under-grad engineering in IITs, the faculty teaches full time
The entry level for students into IIT is 150IQ, far higher floor than any in the west

Ronduck said...

Since we are talking about how the Ivy leagues compare to other countries universities take a look at Dartmouth's unofficial mascot:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keggy_the_Keg

Eric said...

American students aren't interested in science and engineering anymore because it's become a dead end career. For far less effort you can go into the financial industry and make heaps more money.

And then there's status. There was a time when Americans looked up to those types of guys - where boys actually aspired to be the next Einstein or von Braun. But there's no social status in it anymore.

Without the Soviets to scare everyone from their complacency, who gives a shit whether it's Americans or someone else with the best science? Oh, they will later, long after it's too late.

How many "ordinary" people can name even one living engineer or scientist they don't know personally?

If I could tell my high school self anything, it would be this:

"Be a hedge fund manager. Forget all that math and science stuff - you wanna see who's willing to work for less money, you or some guy in China without running water?

"Instead, graduate from some prestigious school. You don't have to learn anything - that ain't the point. Sound all science-y so people start calling you "wunderkind" or "whiz-kid" even though you've never done anything but spout gobbledygook. Don't worry. Nobody will check.

"Open a hedge fund and make big, big gambles. Derivatives are good for that. It helps if you dress nice when you go around asking for other people's retirement money. Call yourself a whiz-kid in the advertising. If you lose all the money right off the bat, close the fund and open another one.

"If your bets pay off your fund will grow exponentially, since no matter how they caution you on TV people are always chasing past performance. By the time you lose it all back (blame Bush and you'll get a pass) you'll have collected so much in fees you'll be set for life."

H. said...

As a UC Ph. D. who taught at a couple of Chinese "key" unis, their absence on a list of top institutions does not surprise me--even the Chinese can't lie about such a thing. Chinese can only do limited imitations of western inventions which they could never have come up with, and higher ed. is no exception. Chinese unis are not centers of dynamic research, just of plagiarism. As for Europe, it also does not surprise me that institutions like the Sorbonne and Gottingen don't rank so highly, although there are surely some bright French and German grads out there (I know some). American unis rank on top because they have much better funding and facilities that their counterparts anywhere else, plus there is still a lot of brain floating around in the US teen population, even after high school.

Cyd the Kid said...

Or maybe they just aren't smart enough?

Regarding the dearth of American kids in university engineering/math programs. I fail to see how one can come to this conclusion when American kids were "smart enough" in the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80, and even 90s. If you are implying they are being poorly educated and made to believe they are not smart enough, then I concur.

Lets' take a quick glance at the "ACM INTERNATIONAL COLLEGIATE PROGRAMMING CONTEST sponsored by IBM" which is described as a "contest that fosters creativity, teamwork, and innovation in building new software programs, and enables students to test their ability to perform under pressure. Quite simply, it is the oldest, largest, and most prestigious programming contest in the world." The 2008 results indicate that white kids certainly have the ability to do complex, innovative math and computer programming when taught appropriately in encouraging environments as opposed to being pushed through dumbed down curricula and PC dogma that infests the US. This PC dogma is destroying white young minds.

BTW, where is the Indian contingent in this prestigious competition? They of the super duper computer skills and high IQ?

Cyd the Kid said...

Each IIT was set up with US, German, UK and Russian assistance to reflect the curriculum and teaching of their top engineering colleges. This was done in 1958

You don't say? Is it the assertion of Indians that the students have now surpassed the teachers? Or is it that the teachers are shooting themselves in the foot by sabotaging their own in order to garner a few extra pennies?

Anonymous said...

You are such a git, Steve. I'm sure you don't mind my honesty. You're the free-thinker on the net, right? Total honesty should be appreciated on your blog.

I declare that to be the case because, while you prattle on about unprecedented "prestige" in American elite education, American culture sinks into the toilet. And that doesn't really compute, does it? American culture should be rising to great heights along with the trajectory of prestige in its colleges and universities.

Yes, Steve Sailer trumpets that America has the most prestigious universities in the world...at the same time that the American culture is collapsing in on itself. And noticeably so.

Disagree? Who the hell is going to stand up and say that American culture is today...cresting? Peaking? Rising to new heights of greatness? What a joke that assertion would be. IF ANYONE ACTUALLY DARED TO MAKE IT. But we all know that absolutely no one dares to make that assertion.

OK, how about some dry facts? Let's take a look at the notable Harvard alumni:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Harvard_University_people

There is a noticeable pattern here, Steve. And that is that the recent Harvard alums are lame. F***ING LAME, if you don't mind my saying so. And the same goes for Yale or any other Ivy League institution.

Indeed, the recent Ivy League alums who will stand the test of time are few and far between.

What does this tell us about "prestige"? Maybe you, Steve, would answer "nothing". Perhaps you would answer that prestige is something else entirely. But I don't think so. I think you know exactly what is going on in America's prestigious universities - and that is that they are being destroyed.

You are such a git, Steve. You run your site like it's some sort of politically incorrect outlaw intellectual hive, when, in fact, you are the guy who is continually uncomfortable and unwilling to face reality.

America is dying, you jerk. The last whiff of post World War II superiority, America's high standard of living, is about to be withdrawn by the world's creditors. And then, when reality has finally been rammed into the heads of your neighbors, and you yourself are afraid to go out of your house without a firearm, then and only then might you consider that America's elite colleges were not recently prestigious...but instead absolutely fraudulent.

Argent Paladin said...

That's one angry anonymous. (and is it really a contradiction to say that America's universities are the best in the world and that America is "dying"? As Mark Steyn says, demographics is a relative game. America may be dying, but Europe is dying faster, and India and China aren't close to catching up (and the rest of the world is even worse))
As someone who is an alum from the #2 school in the world, I thought I could make some distinctions. When the Shanghai Jiao Tong (and by extension Steve) is talking about research universities, they are talking about the graduate communities, mainly engineering, cs, math, biology, physics and other hard sciences. There is a world of difference between Stanford undergrads and Stanford grad students. The Nobel Laureate Physicists were with the grad students. The labs and research money were for the grad students. The money wasn't going to the hordes of American Studies, Econ, English and Comp Lit majors.
In fact, some highly ranked institutions have no undergraduates, such as UCSF. Really the biggest factors are size, money and age. Harvard and Cambridge have all three, Stanford makes up for its lack of age with its surfeit of money.
That being said, I'd be ashamed to have my kids go to any of those schools as undergrads, but immensely proud if they went there for med school or for a science Ph.D.

Ali said...

I wonder how much value for money American universities offer. Obviously the facilities are impressive but how necessary are they for giving a solid undergrad education, which is what most of their customers are there for? The costs of student loans might have put me off university if I was in the US.

Anonymous said...

We need to set up completely separate universities for science/technology (MANY more than just a few "institutes of technology") and let those in the humanities have their own universities too.

rec1man said...

American students aren't interested in science and engineering anymore because it's become a dead end career. For far less effort you can go into the financial industry and make heaps more money.

If I could tell my high school self anything, it would be this:

"Be a hedge fund manager. Forget all that math and science stuff - you wanna see who's willing to work for less money, you or some guy in China without running water?
--


I hate to break it to you

Once US corporates figured out that english fluent Indians could do jobs at the low end like call centers and jobs at the high end like software, they decided to outsource every job in betweeen to India

Google up Office Tiger and Chennai

also google up wall street and india offshoring and cfa

The high paying wall street stuff has already gone 30% to India
where a 140IQ SIB will gladly do the job of a 300K wallstreet CFA , hedge fund analyst for $25k

rec1man said...

BTW, where is the Indian contingent in this prestigious competition? They of the super duper computer skills and high IQ?
---

Actually at 47, you see IIT Chennai
which mostly has SIBs

I know in the case of Russia and China, the state makes this a prestige issue like the olympics and the contestants do not have to worry about their grades

In the case of IITs, the students always have to keep up grades, even if they attend these contests

Get a few bad grades and you get expelled from the IITs, and back to starvation

jody said...

i don't pretend to understand how this list was generated, but as a science and technology professional, it does not match up with my experience.

germany is ahead of the US in many areas of science and technology. now, i don't know if all the work has to be done in an academic setting to get credit to appear on this list, but the list makes it look like germany is doing nothing while science and technology "powerhouses" like U chicago are busy discovering and inventing stuff.

i almost never work with technology primarily developed at some of these places. harvard is, by far, the most overrated university here from my perspective. i hardly ever encounter stuff originally created at harvard. harvard did not even enter the DARPA grand challenge. does harvard EVEN HAVE THE ABILITY to field a competitive team in a technical competition like that? i actually think the answer is no.

a team of germans from stanford won DARPA. carnegie mellon, a fairly major science and technology university in pittsburgh who develops lots of computer science and robots used everywhere including the US military, took second at DARPA, yet is ludicrously ranked 20 places below penn state in central pennsylvania, primarily an agriculture school who's engineers would certainly loose any head to head with carnegie. virginia tech, 3rd place, does not even appear on the shanghai list.

japan's work in various fields of science and technology, also ahead of the US, may be similarly overlooked due to not all of it taking place in an academic setting. again, i do not claim to understand the methodology here.

Anonymous said...


BTW, where is the Indian contingent in this prestigious competition? They of the super duper computer skills and high IQ?


I dunno, I guess they and the Chinese are busy representing the US at the International Math Olympiads (see link below).

Seriously, it's pretty stupid to try to argue that the Chinese, Koreans, and Indians in the US can't compete with Europeans at the highest levels in math. Obviously they can. You don't have to embrace unreality to be proud of Euro accomplishments.


http://www.maa.org/news/061608usimo.html



The 2008 USAMO winners pose for pictures around the Albert Einstein Memorial Statue outside of the National Academy of Sciences. From left to right - Front: Evan O'Dorney*, Paul Christiano*, and Tao Ran Chen. Middle: Alex Zhai*, QinXuan Pan, Delong Meng. Back: David Benjamin, Sam Elder, Shaunak Kishore*, Krishanu Sankar*, David Rolnick, Colin Sandon*. (* denotes IMO team member)

Anonymous said...

As another alumnus of the #2 school in the world*, I agree that we need to separate two things.

-- Science/math education at the top universities? It's world class at the graduate level, ok to excellent at the undergrad level. (Why just "ok"? Because the undergrad curricula could use a heavier dose of math in many areas).

-- Humanities education at the same unis? It's utterly a stinking pile of refuse. Lie upon lie upon lie. And these lies are then spread all over the world by the highly efficient vectors of Hollywood and the New York Times.

History in particular is probably the most important of the humanities, because it provides the facts and events that the other disciplines take their direction from. And history has been totally rewritten, MiniTru style, at the top schools.

Now that the internet is around, though, you can start digging into the archives to find out what was *really* going on back in the day...you may find it educational.

Try the following links on for starters. Note that these links are far from orthogonal to the topic of "what's happened to America's universities"...they are in fact at the root of the issue.

Make sure to click the first and last links in particular...


http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9A04E5DC1139E13ABC4B52DFB4668382609EDE

http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F70F11FB395B107A93CAA9178BD95F408385F9

http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F00E1FF93559127A93C5AB1788D85F4C8285F9

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9C02E2D71E3BE533A2575AC2A9649D94619ED7CF

http://tinyurl.com/47qm4t

Cyd the Kid said...

I dunno, I guess they and the Chinese are busy representing the US at the International Math Olympiads (see link below).

Seriously, it's pretty stupid to try to argue that the Chinese, Koreans, and Indians in the US can't compete with Europeans at the highest levels in math. Obviously they can. You don't have to embrace unreality to be proud of Euro accomplishments.


My argument is much deeper than that. My argument is that with a population of ~2.5 billion (China and India combined), where are these superstar "saviors" of the west with their astronomical IQs that we keep hearing endless accolades about from big business, especially from the piehole of Bill Gates? Going by sheer numbers, all the top spots in any mathematical, CS, engineering competitions should be Chinese and Indian, should they not?

That's my reality and the reality of most people who have had direct and deep contact with the new saviors of the west.

No offense to rec1man, however his excuse that the IIT contingent weren't properly represented in the final results due to lack of support from the university as opposed to the full support of the Russians et al, sounds like malarkey to me.

Truth said...

"That being said, I'd be ashamed to have my kids go to any of those schools as undergrads, but immensely proud if they went there for med school or for a science Ph.D."

that's funny, i've heard precisely the opposite from state school undergrads who went to the Ivy's for their graduate degrees.

SFG said...

Steve,
The Germans aren't exactly shabby in the intellectual department; I often see in your posts a praising of Jewish I.Q. and a tendency to ignore the powerhouses of Europe (Marilyn Vos Savant is of German and Italian ancestry for example. Reading about her and her husbands' ancestry is fascinating.)

I've often reflected that Ashkenazi culture had a huge German influence and that German Jews represented a lot of the Jewish intellectual giants. It's possible it represented a happy confluence of genetics and culture before the Germans blew it in 1933.

Even now I think Germany has one of the higher IQs in Europe according to Lynn.

Anonymous said...

"Obscure provincial colleges"?

Perhaps certain American universities you all hold in high esteem might appear to be provincial to foreigners?


"
American students aren't interested in science and engineering anymore because it's become a dead end career. For far less effort you can go into the financial industry and make heaps more money.

If I could tell my high school self anything, it would be this:

"Be a hedge fund manager. Forget all that math and science stuff - you wanna see who's willing to work for less money, you or some guy in China without running water?
--"

You do realize that hedge fund managers tend to be quite good at maths? It's easier to get a job in the financial industry if you have training in a scientific or engineering field?

Anonymous said...

Guess who are the largest minority group amongst the top American hedge fund managers? India-Americans......

Indians and Northeast Asians may be no smarter than anyone else, but damn do they study hard. That's at least part of the reason they do so well in math/science/engineering/higher education. Of course studying can only get you so far. You need creativity, intelligence, etc. to go up in the world. On those traits, I think caucasians are more comparable to Asians.

Anonymous said...

Going by sheer numbers, all the top spots in any mathematical, CS, engineering competitions should be Chinese and Indian, should they not?

Huh? They're certainly vastly overrepresented in all those competitions. Ever been to graduate school in computer science, or Google Research, or Intel's engineering floor?

This is not a winning line of argument, Cyd. I'm proud of Europeans too, but it's just denying reality to state that the Asians are not doing well in IQ competitions.

The Intel winners, the Spelling Bee, Ivy/Stanford admits, medical schools, the Olympiads...

Go and look at some of the competition winners and students for the last 10 years or so. Then normalize by the 3-4% Asian population in the US. You're seeing on the order of 5-10X overrepresentation.

Now, yes, obviously this is a select group of Asians. But there's a reason that high tech companies have research divisions in Shanghai and Bangalore rather than Nigeria, and that reason isn't PC.

http://www.lewrockwell.com/reed/reed6.html

Johnny Can't Add
But Suresh Venktasubramanian Can

by Fred Reed
by Fred Reed

Save a link to this article and return to it at www.savethis.comSave a link to this article and return to it at www.savethis.com Email a link to this articleEmail a link to this article Printer-friendly version of this articlePrinter-friendly version of this article View a list of the most popular articles on our siteView a list of the most popular articles on our site

The other day I went to the Web site of Bell Labs, one of the country's premier research outfits. I clicked at random on a research project, Programmable Networks for Tomorrow. The scientists working on the project were Gisli Hjalmstysson, Nikos Anerousis, Pawan Goyal, K. K. Ramakrishnan, Jennifer Rexford, Kobus Van der Merwe, and Sneha Kumar Kasera.

Clicking again at random, this time on the Information Visualization Research Group, the research team turned out to be John Ellson, Emden Gansner, John Mocenigo, Stephen North, Jeffery Korn, Eleftherios Koutsofios, Bin Wei, Shankar Krishnan, and Suresh Venktasubramanian.

Here is a pattern I've noticed in countless organizations at the high end of the research spectrum. In the personnel lists, certain groups are phenomenally over-represented with respect to their appearance in the general American population: Chinese, Koreans, Indians, and, though it doesn't show in the above lists, Jews. What the precise statistical breakdown across the world of American research might be, I don't know. An awful lot of personnel lists look like the foregoing.

Think about this: Asians make up a small percent of the population, yet there are company directories in Silicon Valley that read like a New Delhi phone book. Many of our premier universities have become heavily Asian, with many of these students going into the sciences. If Chinese citizens and Americans of Chinese descent left tomorrow for Beijing, American research, and graduate schools in the sciences and engineering, would be crippled.

Jews are two or three percent of the population. On the rough-cut assumption that Goldstein is probably Jewish, and Ferguson probably isn't, it is evident that Jews are doing lots more than their share of research – and, given that people named Miller may well be Jewish, the name-recognition approach probably produces a substantial undercount. I asked a friend, researching a book on Harvard, the percentage of Asian and Jewish students. Answer: "Asians close to 20%. Jews close to 25% – unofficial, because you are allowed to list by gender, ethnicity, geography, but not religion. Our last taboo."

None of this is original with me. In 1999, the National Academy of Sciences released a study noting that over half of U.S. engineering doctorates are awarded to foreign students. Where are Smith and Jones?

Why are members of these very small groups doing so much of the important research for the United States? That's easy. They're smart, they go into the sciences, and they work hard. Potatoes are more mysterious. It's not affirmative action. They produce. The qualifications of these students can easily be checked. They have them. The question is not whether these groups perform, or why, but why the rest of us no longer do. What has happened?

It is not an easy question, but a lot of it, I think, is the deliberate enstupidation of American education. Again, the idea is not original with me. Said the American Educational Research Association of the NAS report, "Serious deficiencies in American pre-college education, along with wavering support for basic research, were cited by the panel as major contributors to this problem."

Consider mathematics. In the mid-Sixties I took freshman chemistry at Hampden-Sydney College, a solid school in Virginia but not nearly MIT. It was assumed – assumed without thought – that students knew algebra cold. They had to. You can't do heavy loads of highly mathematical homework, or wrestle with ideas like integrating probability densities over three-space, or do endless gas-law and reaction-rate calculations, if you aren't sure how exponents work.

Remedial mathematics at the college level was unheard of. The assumption was that people who weren't ready for college work should be somewhere else. No one thought about it. Today, remedial classes in both reading and math are common at universities. We seem to be dumbing ourselves to death.

I recently had children go through the high schools of Arlington, Va., a suburb of Washington. I watched them come home with badly misspelled chemistry handouts from half-educated teachers, watched them do stupid, make-work science projects that taught them nothing about the sciences but used lots of pretty paper.

The extent of scholastic decline is sometimes astonishing. So help me, I once saw, in a middle school in Arlington, a student's project on a bulletin board celebrating Enrico Fermi's contributions to "Nucler Physicts" (Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee champions: 2003, Sai Guntuyri; 2002, Pratyush Buddiga; 2001, Sean Conley; 2000, George Thampy; 1999, Nupur Lala).

It appears that a few groups are keeping their standards up and the rest of us are drowning our children in self-indulgent social engineering, political correctness, and feel-good substitutes for learning.

Some of our growing dependency is hidden. We do not merely rely on small industrious groups in America and on foreigners working here. Increasingly the United States contracts out its technical thinking to Asia.

If you read technically aware publications like Wired magazine (and how many people do?), you find that major American corporations have more and more of their computer programming done by people in, for example, India. In cities like Bombay, large colonies of Indians work for U.S. companies by Internet. This again means that counting names at American institutions underestimates the growth of intellectual dependence.

The Indians, and others, have discovered the suddenly important principle that intellectual capital is separable from physical capital. To program for Boeing, you don't have to be anywhere near Seattle. Nor do you need an aircraft plant. All you need is a $700 computer, a book called something like How to Program in C++, and a fast Internet connection. Crucial work like circuit-design can now be done abroad by bright people who don't need chip factories. They need workstations, the Internet, and engineering degrees.

This too we would be wise to ponder. Americans often think of India chiefly as a land of ghastly poverty. Well, yes. It is also a country with about three times our population and a lot of very bright people who want to get ahead. They're professionally hungry. We no longer are.

People speak of globalization. This is it, and it's just beginning. Where will it take us? How long can we maintain a technologically dominant economy if we are, as a country, no longer willing to do our own thinking? If we rely heavily on less than 10 percent of our own population while employing more and more foreigners abroad?

It's not them. It's us. I've heard the phrase, "the Asian challenge to the West." I don't think so. When Sally Chen gets a doctorate in biochemistry, she's not challenging America. She's getting a doctorate in biochemistry. Those who study have no reason to apologize to those who don't.

The Mathematical Association of America runs a contest for the extremely bright and prepared among high-school students. It is called the United States of America Mathematics Olympiad, and it "provides a means of identifying and encouraging the most creative secondary mathematics students in the country."

An unedited section of a list of those recently chosen: Sharat Bhat, Tongke Xue, Matthew Peairs, Wen Li, Jongmin Baek, Aaron Kleinman, David Stolp, Andrew Schwartz, Rishi Gupta, Jennifer Laaser, Inna Zakharevich, Neil Chua, Jonathan Lowd, Simon Rubinsteinsalze, Joshua Batson, Jimmy Jia, Jichao Qian, Dmitry Taubinsky, David Kaplan, Erica Wilson, Kai Dai, Julian Kolev, Jonathan Xiong, Stephen Guo.

Q.E.D.

Anonymous said...

> germany is ahead of the US in many areas of science and technology.

As a fellow "science and technology professional", I see no evidence for this. Please name some.

> i hardly ever encounter stuff originally created at harvard....

Ah yes, those morons at Harvard. Busy winning Putnam competitions, creating Facebook (trivial I'm sure) and sequencing the human genome (do you know what the Broad Institute is? No?)

Look: Harvard doesn't have an engineering school. That's why it didn't enter. The Lakers aren't going to be in the Superbowl anytime soon either.

PS: Thrun is certainly German, but if you look at the Stanford AI lab people list, uh, you've got an uphill battle there if the goal is to "prove" German dominance...

http://www.cs.stanford.edu/group/roadrunner/team.html

http://ai.stanford.edu/people.html

Scott said...

I'm starting to think that education is extremely inefficient for a country. IQ testing and on-the-job-apprenticing might be the best way to prepare people for the workforce. People with ability can learn on their own at the library or via the internet.

Proofreader said...

I'm with Jody here. Don't bother with University rankings, which are inherently fraudulent and biased, but look at real life accomplishments.

Germans are still the best engineers and scientists around.
Here's a list of post war German laureates (leaving out the phony awards, like peace and literature, and non-ethnics):

# Gerhard Ertl, Chemistry, 2007
# Peter Grünberg, (then Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, now Czech Republic), Physics, 2007
# Theodor W. Hänsch, Physics, 2005
# Wolfgang Ketterle, Physics, 2001
# Herbert Kroemer*, Physics, 2000
# Günter Blobel*, Physiology or Medicine, 1999
# Horst L. Störmer*, Physics, 1998
# Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard, Physiology or Medicine, 1995
# Reinhard Selten, Economics, 1994
# Bert Sakmann, Physiology or Medicine, 1991
# Erwin Neher, Physiology or Medicine, 1991
# Hans G. Dehmelt*, Physics, 1989
# Wolfgang Paul, Physics, 1989
# Johann Deisenhofer, Chemistry, 1988
# Robert Huber, Chemistry, 1988
# Hartmut Michel, Chemistry, 1988
# J. Georg Bednorz, Physics, 1987
# Ernst Ruska, Physics, 1986
# Gerd Binnig, Physics, 1986
# Klaus von Klitzing, Physics, 1985
# Georges J.F. Kohler*, Physiology or Medicine, 1984
# Georg Wittig, Chemistry, 1979
# Ernst Otto Fischer, Chemistry, 1973
# Karl Ritter von Frisch, (then Austria-Hungary, now Austria), Physiology or Medicine, 1973
# Gerhard Herzberg*, Chemistry, 1971
# Max Delbrück*, Physiology or Medicine, 1969
# Manfred Eigen, Chemistry, 1967
# Hans Albrecht Bethe*, (now France), Physics, 1967
# Feodor Felix Konrad Lynen, Physiology or Medicine, 1964
# Karl Ziegler, Chemistry, 1963
# Maria Goeppert-Mayer*, Physics, 1963
# J. Hans D. Jensen, Physics, 1963
# Rudolf Mössbauer, Physics, 1961
# Werner Forssmann, Physiology or Medicine, 1956
# Walther Bothe, Physics, 1954
# Hermann Staudinger, Chemistry, 1953

# Hans Adolf Krebs*, Physiology or Medicine, 1953
# Otto Diels, Chemistry, 1950
# Kurt Alder, Chemistry, 1950

Bear in mind that scientists like Heisenberg or Von Braun never made the list.
Germans are not only brilliant but very hard-working. And creative as well. An impressive of qualities that perhaps no other country can match.

Horatio said...

Although Germany's performance is relatively lower than it was 80 years ago, these rankings are inaccurate with respect to the quality of German science. The best scientists in Germany go on to work at the Max Planck institutes. University professors in Germany are the ones that could not get a position at one of those institutes. Imagine if the top 30 American universities turned into research institutes with a negligible role in education. NYU would be the best school in the country. NYU is certainly a good school, but it's no Harvard.

Richard Holmes said...

From University Ranking Watch http://rankingwatch.blogspot.com/

That the Chinese rankings are less chauvinistic than QS-THES is absolutely correct. And if he is being deliberately offensive by describing Oxford, Cambridge and Imperial and University Colleges, London as "obscure provincial colleges in England", I suppose that I couldn't really argue.

But surely the decline of German universities began well before leftist anti-elitism appeared on the scene? Didn't it begin with the mass expulsion of Jewish students and academics after 1933?

Anonymous said...

The question is not whether these groups perform, or why, but why the rest of us no longer do. What has happened?

Peer group dynamics changed. Good students are considered nerds. They are being socially ostracized and psychologically flagellated. Bad students on the other hand are considered cool and enjoy respect and popularity.

Asians come from cultures that are family oriented and put great value on academic achievement. That's why peer pressure doesn't affect them as much.

rec1man said...

The question is not whether these groups perform, or why, but why the rest of us no longer do. What has happened?

Peer group dynamics changed. Good students are considered nerds. They are being socially ostracized and psychologically flagellated. Bad students on the other hand are considered cool and enjoy respect and popularity.

Asians come from cultures that are family oriented and put great value on academic achievement. That's why peer pressure doesn't affect them as much.

--

I can only speak from the indian angle

No good grades = No good job = No wife = No p*ssy

rec1man said...

cyd the kid
--
Each IIT was set up with US, German, UK and Russian assistance to reflect the curriculum and teaching of their top engineering colleges. This was done in 1958

You don't say? Is it the assertion of Indians that the students have now surpassed the teachers? Or is it that the teachers are shooting themselves in the foot by sabotaging their own in order to garner a few extra pennies?
--

At that time in the 1950s nobody in the west knew that the brahmins , especially Southern brahmins had very high IQ
so they thought they were dealing with a primitive african or asian country and did not think that this could ever come back to bite them
--
A look at the under graduate program in the IITs

--

http://www.salon.com/books/it/1999/12/06/indian/

One warm day in May 1984, Venky Harinarayan ( SIB ) sat down to take the entrance exam to the school of his dreams.

His eyes sifted through a litany of seemingly impregnable questions -- about Bernoulli's principle, Doppler's effect, Lorentz's forces, ionic equilibria and combinatronics -- things that would never appear on an SAT in a million years.

Not only did Venky pass the exam, he placed an astounding 40th in the country. With this ranking, he got a coveted spot as a computer science major at the IIT campus in Madras.

Flash forward to the summer of 1998 when Amazon.com purchased an e-commerce software company named Junglee for $180 million. That day, Venky Harinarayan (SIB), along with four other Junglee co-founders (also IIT graduates), became an overnight multi-millionaire.

In fact, per capita, IIT has probably produced more millionaires than any other undergraduate institution

In his book "The New New Thing," Michael Lewis tracked the dominant role of IIT graduates in Healtheon, a high-powered start-up venture run by Netscape founder and Silicon Valley legend Jim Clark. IIT graduates turn up in boardrooms of companies like CitiGroup, U.S. Airways, Novell and in managing director positions at top Wall Street investment banks.

"You find IIT graduates all over the place. Sometimes you get a feeling that it's someone from IIT by default and that all you have to do is ask what IIT they are from. Their success rate, if you chart it, looks like a hockey stick," says Yogesh Sharma, the editor of siliconvalleyindia magazine.

Pavan Nigam, IIT graduate and chief technology officer of Healtheon, agrees: "Anybody who makes it into an IIT, you are now set for life. You might end up in the bottom five percent of your class but you are still set for life."

How have IIT graduates come to represent such an economic and entrepreneurial juggernaut? Educated in English and ready to travel at the drop of a hat, IIT grads embody all the ideals of the new economy: They are flexible and brilliant technological knowledge workers who easily cross borders and cultures to pursue their entrepreneurial and employment dreams.

Founded in the 1940s, IIT was the brainchild of India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, who sought to create a techno-elite

Rekhi's refrain represents a kind of mantra among IIT grads who have begun to give India the economic power (and, by extension, political power) that eluded decades of carefully planned development.

Yet only the top 1 percent of applicants have the chance to experience an IIT education. Such odds make the most prestigious U.S. school pale in comparison. Harvard, for instance, has a 13-percent acceptance rate. And unlike American colleges, admission to IIT almost solely depends on three brutal exams covering physics, chemistry and mathematics. Most questions on those exams would thoroughly flummox the vast majority of U.S. college students, let alone top-notch U.S. high school students. "I still have a copy of the mathematics exam. But I couldn't explain the math questions in English," says Ramesh Parameswaran ( SIB ), a graduate of IIT Bombay who went on to work at Microsoft and then co-founded an Internet business called XpertSite.com.

To prepare for this braincrusher, some applicants start studying two years in advance when they are 14 or 15 years old. They may log three, four, five or even 10 hours per day, seven days a week, to hone their skills. Some wait to take the exam until after they have graduated from high school and have time to study. But the majority study for high school graduation and the IIT exam simultaneously, giving new meaning to the term sleep deprivation. "I spent a year doing that, studying, for both end of high school and IIT. I don't much remember doing anything else that year," says Parameswaran.

"But IITs are not completely dominated by people from the cities. The system really does work incredibly well in many cases. There are people from remote villages that will show up and they blow your mind with how smart they are."

IIT freshmen arrive to find campuses sparse by Western standards but plush for India. The campuses boast green hills, ponds and open spaces -- an archipelago of privileged semi-rural redoubts on highly prized real estate in one of the world's most crowded nations. Big American computer companies, their logos displayed prominently on campus buildings, endow professorships, allowing the well-funded faculty to concentrate their attentions on small groups of students.

On one unusual occasion, Harinarayan and his 24 computer science classmates had to share a single textbook for a class. "We used to have a system where everyone would have two hours with the book. If you got the 3 a.m.-to-5 a.m. slot, you would have to get up then," he recalls.

IIT students carry approximately 50 percent more courses than the typical U.S. undergrad, gaining a mastery over their subject matter that often makes graduate school in the United States a breeze. "My first year at Berkeley when I was doing my master's, that was the easiest year I had ever had in my life," recalls Mashruwala. "I either knew it or I could sit at home and do the whole subject in one-quarter the time of everyone else."

Such rigorous training also makes IIT grads especially appealing to high-tech companies like Microsoft, Intel and Cisco, who send recruiters across the Pacific on yearly trips

About 20,000 IITans live in the United States right now, almost 20 percent of the total IIT grad population since the system's inception. Most never return to India.

IIT grads had begun filtering into U.S. industry and academia by the early 1970s, but they didn't crack the executive ceiling until 1982 when IIT graduate Vinod Khosla helped bootstrap Sun Microsystems -- making Khosla an entrepreneurial poster boy for IIT grads. Since then, more than 1,000 Indian entrepreneurs have started companies in Silicon Valley, creating hundreds, if not thousands, of multi-millionaire IITan entrepreneurs with companies worth more than $40 billion. Mashruwala estimates the average net worth of the 60 classmates he keeps in touch with in this country at between $6 million and $7 million.

Not surprisingly, the money men have noticed the green hue of the IIT imprimatur. "People are writing blank checks" says Mashruwala. "I have a guy who runs what used to be a conservative investment fund who is weekly calling me and asking me, 'Could you find me a deal or a place to invest my money through your networks?'" Several Silicon Valley venture capitalists who preferred to remain unnamed say any startup involving an IIT graduate has an advantage in attracting funding.

Despite money donated by IIT graduates to charities in India or to their alumni associations, the ultimate payoff to India may come circuitously from the West itself in the form of rising salaries at computer companies in India and in the border-less business world engendered by the Internet. A rash of start-ups in India has given IIT grads the option of staying home and still striking it Internet-rich. Several Indian companies already trade publicly on the NASDAQ exchange. As more and more Western companies establish Indian subsidiaries, the flood of IIT graduates to the West may begin to ebb.

rec1man said...

Even Indian girls are doing well in science

2008 Intel Science Talent Search Winners Announced
Shivani Sud of North Carolina Awarded $100,000 Intel Scholarship

SANTA CLARA, Calif., March 11, 2008 – Honoring the next generation of American innovators, Intel Corporation today announced the winners of the Intel Science Talent Search. Shivani Sud ( northern merchant ), 17, of Durham, N.C., won the top award, a $100,000 scholarship from the Intel Foundation. For her research project, Sud developed a model that analyzed the specific "molecular signatures" of tumors from patients with stage II colon cancer. She then used this information to identify those at higher risk for tumor recurrence and propose potentially effective drugs for treatment.