This is a subject I tend to think about, and since I just saw a good article in CADalyst (Growing Our Profession) about how to get future generations interested in Engineering, I thought I would make this my topic of the day.
Assuming China is graduating so many more engineers because they need the infrastructure build-up more than we do wouldn't cover it all. Every source talking about this topic mentions the bad math and science scores in this country, St. Louis is no exception.
I started reading an article about how the gap in achievements between black and white students has virtually disappeared in this city, and was disappointed to discover it wasn't because there was a vast improvement with one group, but, because of the severe decline in the other.
Also, a thought to ponder; who do kids look up to? Musicians, athletes, etc? Not many teenagers have trading cards or posters of famous engineers.
Jeffrey Rowe (the author of the CADalyst article mentioned above) spoke from his viewpoint as a substitute teacher about the curriculum being offered in today's high schools. Speaking from my own experience, geometry was dropped as a requirement before I had to take it, and was then marked as a 'remedial' course. After I failed Algebra, I was put into the geometry class along with the BD (behaviour disorder) and LD (learning disorder) kids.
I passed geometry, passed algebra on my second try, and when I moved to Trigonometry... almost everyone in the class was getting 'D's except me. Why is that? Because the school district assumed we didn't need to know geometry? That it was 'remedial'? ~shrug~ I don't know who makes the decisions on class requirements, I believe that is done at a state level?
As with a paper I wrote a while back on the state of literacy in the US, it makes you wonder who is to blame? Do we blame the schools? Do we blame uninvolved or uneducated parents? Do we blame our society's focus?
Well, instead of being part of the 'problem' I encourage us all to be a part of the solution.
Volunteer your time for a movement like FIRST... "to create a world where science and technology are celebrated... where young people dream of being science and technology heroes" - Dean Kamen.
Even parents with a non-technical background can take their children on outings to places like the St. Louis Science Center. A mostly-free attraction with interactive exhibits (and, incidentally, home of the Ansari X-prize). Learn about bridge building, computers, convservation, and more!
Or search for your own way of encouraging a technical career for your child/children in your community.
In case you are wondering, my son's favorite place to go 'play' is the science center. We build things with blocks large and small, we have built a 7' tall foam arch, and we cruise the toddler section in the computer exhibits. There are many more things at this center, and different types of exhibits at other places (I recall going to a 'children's museum' or something when I lived in southern california and it was awesome).