Anyone for Grad School?
GRADUATE schools in the United States are the best in the world. That's why thousands of students flock to them from China, India, South Korea, and other countries. These students far outnumber Americans in many programs. That, in itself, is certainly not cause for concern. The spread of knowledge and the nurturing of motivated scholars is positive. Moreover, the popularity of US grad schools is an endorsement of American education. But there is a dark side. As a recent New York Times article noted, many Americans are concerned that falling numbers of home-grown graduate students is yet another indication that the US system of education is faltering.
The numbers of young Americans in the most exacting fields, particularly, is declining. The Times pointed out, for instance, that 100 of 160 students in the graduate chemistry program at Rutgers University in New Jersey are foreign, mostly Chinese.
What can be done to produce more US-bred scholars? That work has at least as much to do with family and culture as with classroom experience. Over and over it's been shown that efforts to more actively involve parents in their childrens' education pay off. Within the schools, reforms that encourage in-depth thinking, not just rote learning, are crucial.
For many students, undergraduate experience is a key to pursuing further education. Is the devaluing of teaching at many universities and colleges contributing to the shrinking American presence in graduate school?
In this regard, a report issued this week by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, offers some insights. ``Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate'' proposes broadening the goals of college faculty to include a deeper appreciation of teaching. ``Teaching is often viewed as a routine function, tacked on, something almost anyone can do,'' writes Carnegie president Ernest Boyer. ``When defined as scholarship, however, teaching both educates and entices future scholars.
We applaud the scholars from abroad who clearly need no further enticement. We'd like to see more Americans join their ranks.