Outsourcing as a product of education

Both the Bush and Kerry campaigns have talked about outsourcing as a problem. Bush wants to keep business taxes low and regulation under control in order to keep jobs in the US; Kerry wants to penalize companies for taking their jobs overseas.

Today, in the Wall Street Journal, Lou Gerstner (you remember him, he ran that small, three-initialed tech company for a few years) has a good editorial (may require registration or subscription) talking about the need to improve education in order to create a workforce that actually is capable of performing the jobs.

His basic premise is that much of the outsourcing, such as creating offshore research and development facilities in Asia, comes from people in the US not being available to do the jobs. There's some sense of this in looking at the US educational system. Many of the students that train in technology in our best universities are foreigners. Where are the Americans?

Gerstner feels that the educational system is to blame and the fact that our best and brightest don't go on to teach the up-and-coming American's needs to be fixed. His solution is starting an organization called The Teaching Commission, which targets increasing the pay and prestige of teachers in our public schools.

However, I am not entirely certain of one aspect of Gerstner's piece. He believes that the students are not prepared for technology and learning and therefore don't do well in school and aren't qualified for the workforce.

My experience is a bit different than this. I agree that American students are not coming away with the skills necessary for today's workplace. Some of this is due to the educational system not placing enough emphasis on basic, marketable skills and not giving our students a foundation and comfort level with math and science.

However, we also have a cultural problem. Every time we see an article like this about the need for more people in engineering, technology, teaching, and other fields (such as healthcare) I'm reminded that this culture doesn't exalt participants in any of these fields

Teachers are considered fools because they don't go where the money is.

Engineers and scientists are considered geeks and considered to be socially undesirable (with the exception of a period in the 1990's where geeks seemed to be getting the upper hand cash-wise due to the Internet bubble).

Even healthcare professionals (with the exception of some specialists) are looked at more as servants and mechanics than serious participants in our society.

Unless and until this society starts putting in their rightful place people who actually contribute to it, we are going to continue churning out graduates with law degrees and business degrees whose only ideas of success involve taking money from somebody else's pocket. If you believe I've gone to far on this, then you haven't been reading much of the current crop of patent cases...