In a recent article, Jay Mathews of The Washington Post offers a fresh opinion on America’s academic culture of high prestige and narrow notoriety.
Mathews argues that Americans are very naïve in thinking that our universities are by far and beyond the best in the world. Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Stanford are some of the best colleges in the world; however, Mathews argues that some foreign colleges are catching up to these institutions.
Mathews cited Ben Wildavsky's "The Great Brain Race: How Global Universities Are Reshaping the World,” stating that America still dominates the top 10 best international colleges, But, both Wildavsky and Mathews believe that this trend will not continue. American students are beginning to explore prestigious, foreign colleges. Foreign students have been attending top American universities for years now.
Mathews calls this movement a “growing free trade in great minds.” Wildavsky and Mathews agree that this trend will make the world a more intellectually diverse, prosperous and innovative place. They believe that the free trade of great minds could help solve many country’s economic/political problems and the global energy problems.
Mathews states that we should no longer compete with foreign nations over the world’s most brilliant minds. Countries should drop the competition and the recognition of claiming new discoveries and scientific breakthroughs. Then and only then can the world use its human resources to effectively curb global problems. He believes that students’ attending of foreign universities is the first step in this solution.
This could lead to easier trade relationships with foreign companies and ultimately complete exchange of ideas and solutions.
Soon, there will be more Chinese doctorate-holding scientists and engineers than American, according to George Mason University economist Tyler Cowen. He argues that these Chinese doctors and scientists are not a threat to the well-being of American scientists and doctors. He does not believe they will lead to higher unemployment rates of Americans.
“These professionals are not fundamentally a threat. To the contrary, they are creators, whose ideas are likely to improve the lives of ordinary Americans, not just the business elite. New ideas are the real prize,” according to Cowen.
Mathews wrote that he believes the Indians might have an advantage because of their world-renowned Indian Institutes of Technology and free flow of ideas. The Indian Institutes of Technology grads are sought after worldwide. However, Wildavsky wrote that he believes the Indian system is lacking because of political regulations and government rules. He states that students who are not accepted into one of India’s prestigious universities are lagging far behind other Indians.
Wildavsky said the Chinese education and college system has grown and improved tremendously in the last 10 years to produce innovative scientists and doctors. However, Mathews believes that the Chinese government’s “distrust” of innovative thinkers will limit the country.
“The free trade of great minds,” as Mathews wrote could help solve and improve global problems and concerns. However, political, cultural and language barriers will exist for students who want to attend foreign universities.