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Monday, November 22, 2004
Fareed Zakaria joins the "Crappy Article Club"
I have found that much of my desire to blog comes from three main sources: (1) a really though provoking unique article/post/story, (2) something peaks my interest in conversation, or (3) a really BAD article/post/story I come across.
Today's post (from the 3 category) is dedicated to Fareed Zakaria. Normally I seek out articles by Mr. Zakaria because they are thoughtful, educated, and well constructed. Unfortunately he seems to have forgotten how to be correct and to the point in his most recent article published in Newsweek titled "Rejecting the Next Bill Gates".
The article is about the difficulties looming for American science due to the decrease in foreign born researchers coming to the States. He makes a number of good points, (1) competition from steadily improving international institutions, (2) improving work conditions in the home countries of many potential visitors, and (3) the hurdles placed in the path of international students trying to come to the States. Of all of these the third one is the most important in his article (and in my opinion). Back when I was president of the Graduate Student Association at the University of Tennessee the issue of visa restrictions was getting a lot of play from the administration and the international student body. For all the information I was privy to, the concerns were valid and the long term damage was being predicted.
My problems with Fareed's article is due to some misstatements:
"Yet that research is now done largely by foreign students."
"The dirty little secret about America's scientific edge is that it's largely produced by foreigners and immigrants."
"Americans don't do science anymore."
My big problem with the above statements is that it not only doesn't jive with what I know personally but it is promptly invalidated by a statement Fareed makes:
"The National Science Board (NSB) documented this reality last year, finding that 38 percent of doctorate holders in America's science and engineering work force are foreign-born."
Its a classic overstatement to make the suggestions that America is going to the dustbin of history because we no longer have our easy foreign researchers to save us. That is offensive to me for a thousand different reasons. Perhaps the biggest is that I DO do science.
I think the visa issue is a very complicated matter. Security after 9/11, issues with intellectual property rights, and worker health and safety come to mind as mitigating factors on a large part of the problems facing the visa hungry hordes.
But lets get one thing straight Fareed, American is not the leader in science and technology simply because we piggybacked on the work of others. The reason is because we foster the work in the first place.
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