Where to start?
"only?": I don't think there's very much hay to be made about Ms. Jacobs' use of the word "only" in the sentence "Although unemployment for ACS members is only 4.2% compared with the national average of 8.2%, that rate is among the highest in 40 years (see page 6)." At the same time, when both Rudy Baum and Madeleine Jacobs are continuing to use the National Unemployment Rate as a comparison tool, I think it's important to emphasize a couple of things:
- Less than 30% of the United States has a college degree. The ACS membership in 2010 consists of 64% Ph.D.s, 18% M.S. holders and 18% bachelors' degree holders. (See table labeled "ACS Members in the Workforce.") Comparing one average to the other is a pretty meaningless comparison, unless you mean to say that "Hey, we could be doing worse!"
- Even if you compare ACS members in March 2011 to all college graduates, chemists come out worse:
She plans to “get out of Jersey and get out of science” when her daughter graduates from high school in two years. “She’s very good at everything, very smart,” Haas said of her daughter. “She loves chemistry, loves math. I tell her, ‘Don’t go into science.’ I’ve made that very clear to her.”
Um, that was me who gave that quote. I don't mean to discourage my daughter from learning science. But I don't think it would be a good idea for her to practice it as a career.
This misguided advice so stunned me that I began crafting a response, but Daniel Jordan, a biology major, beat me to the punch with a superb letter to the Washington Post. He wrote: “Anyone who would discourage a child who loves math and chemistry from pursuing a career in science because it might be difficult to find employment might not be a scientist for the right reasons. Energetic men and women must be encouraged to enter the sciences despite these obstacles. In fact, those individuals who are passionate enough about their work to stick with it during times of hardship and who hunger to expand their, and our, knowledge of the world are the very ones we most want. … This prognosis of doom and gloom should be seen as a catalyst to redouble our efforts to foster creativity, ingenuity and admiration for the sciences.”
Right on, Daniel! The U.S. must support and produce the most-talented, best-trained scientists in the world to drive U.S. innovation. In the 1960s, in the aftermath of Sputnik, being a scientist was a noble calling. Many people became scientists to fulfill what they saw as their patriotic duty.