The current fashion is to say that universities need to be churning out masses of graduates in science and engineering — termed STEM these days — who can immediately start working in high-paying jobs, thereby fixing the economy. A lot of influential people are buying into this, including our governor, some legislators and, troublingly, at least some of the university Board of Governors who should know better — almost none of whom seem to have any STEM training themselves.
I have been training university students in science for over 40 years, both in and out of Florida, and, if nothing else, have the advantage of seeing large numbers of students over a long time. From that point of view, it is obvious that while the goal of producing well-trained university graduates is a good one, clearly not everyone should go to college, and most of those who do should not major in science or engineering.
The reason is simple. While our country is based on the essential legal and moral principle that all people are created equal, some are smarter than others. That is a simple fact. And science is hard to do. Profitmaking science is even harder to do — most biotech companies fail.
Every year thousands of freshmen who want to have a career in medicine show up at universities, and most are just not smart enough or willing to work hard enough to compete. Some universities have even created dumbed-down science majors called things like "Biomedical Science" that lack aspects of fundamental science training but produce higher grade-point averages.
But even most "real" science majors should be doing something else. I've probably taught 10,000 undergraduates, and I'd estimate no more than a few hundred really stood a chance at doing professional science. Maybe a couple of thousand or so understood what was going on in their classrooms.
Aside from engineering, where an undergraduate degree could equate to a relatively high salary, an undergraduate degree in most science disciplines will not produce a substantial salary, and the job market is intense. In addition, training costs are huge.
If a student is not smart enough and does not want to work hard enough to get thoroughly trained, his or her time is better spent doing something else. Failed missions to Mars, exploding space shuttles, blown-out oil rigs and on and on — these are the results of failed STEM.
Better STEM training in universities is a critical goal indeed, but not merely to turn out an inadequate product based mostly on head counts for a mythical job market.
Sidney K. Pierce, Odessa
Panel fails, we'll all pay | Nov. 22
President wins this one
Why is anyone surprised that the supercommittee failed? Clearly, every Republican signed the pledge not to raise any taxes, any time, under any circumstances. Clearly, no Democrat on the committee could agree to a result without tax increases for the rich. Therefore, the committee was stalemated before it began to meet. What really surprises me is that the Republicans agreed to the backup legislation which gets rid of the Bush tax plan and enacts cuts in the bloated military budget, but no cuts in Medicare or Social Security.
The result is that the president won this round and refuses to back down. He has said he will veto any attempt by Republicans to renege on the agreement they negotiated.
President Dwight Eisenhower would have approved. He warned us about the dangers of the military-industrial complex. He also presided over an exceptional economy in which the rich paid as much as 90 percent tax.
Mary Louise Ambrose, Belleair Bluffs
Experts, not politicians
Did it ever occur to anyone in the Obama administration that appointing an elite committee of renowned economists from across the nation might be a better idea than 12 congressmen who just want to play "party" economics?
Three European countries have ousted their leaders because of their economic failures. Our leaders can't even choose a responsible committee to figure it out.
David Lubin, Tampa
Roche offers reality check | Nov. 22
Official needs a time out
When a toddler is mean and deceptive, we teach him to say he is sorry. When an 8-year-old does it, he gets a long time alone in his room. When a teen spreads mean accusations behind a fake name, we make him apologize, promise not to do it again, and probably ground him. If the statements are serious enough, we might suspend him from school.
When a county commissioner does the same, is it really enough for him to say he's sorry and won't do it again — and let that be it?
Norm Roche's nastiness in his "Reality" Web postings is inexcusable. He was elected to be on the commission that makes policy decisions for all residents of the entire county. This concept does not seem clear to him, and an "I'm sorry" is not enough.
Perhaps he should take a "time out" from the commission until he shows that he can serve in office as an adult.
C.M. Dunn, Clearwater
Special report on Scientology
Pulling back the curtain
How can people who give themselves sci-fi titles like Operating Thetan VIII and claim to have a spiritual awareness beyond humanity's selfish obsession with material spoils have such an endless need for earthly cash? Your house, your car, your airplane, gold teeth fillings, prosthetic limbs, cherished heirlooms even — sell it all.
Joe Childs and Thomas C. Tobin have pulled back the curtain on the booming voice of "Oz" to reveal a little greedy man sputtering half-baked defensive platitudes. What really defies belief is that there seems to be no shortage of new suckers eagerly getting in to replace the old ones getting out.
Michael P. Kreha, St. Petersburg
Series was eye-opening
I was impressed with the Scientology series and want to thank Joe Childs, Thomas C. Tobin and Maurice Rivenbark. The articles were in-depth and held my attention as I looked forward to each new installment. I hope this series will at least open up the eyes of any new person who is considering this cult religion. What really hurts is how brainwashed the present members must be to be put into situations in which they feel the need to buy their faith.
Teresa A. Jones, New Port Richey
Special report on Scientology
Journalism at its finest
P.T. Barnum is reported to have remarked that there's a sucker born every minute. I can think of no greater validation of this dictum than your outstanding series on Scientology. This kind of reporting is an example of professional journalism at its finest. No other media could have covered this topic so thoroughly. The Times can rightfully claim its place among the great American newspapers.
Harold Mathews, Riverview
Christianity not so different
People who live in glass churches should not throw stones. Obviously anything practiced by a bunch of Hollywood stars is just mythical nonsense, but Christianity is not so different. Christian churches demand tithes from their members and other offerings as well.
All man-made religions are scams by the priest class. God is literally in each of us. There is no need to pay for that.
George Thompson, Wesley Chapel
Worthy of investigation
Scientology money. They adore it, praise it, chase it. It is all that they care about. Where does it go? To erect monuments to themselves, line a few people's pockets, pay their lawyers and press agents.
I tried to count the number of possible offenses the cult has committed. High-pressure sales (coercion), holding someone against their will, theft, unauthorized wiretapping, unscrupulous sales techniques, lies to obtain money (fraud) and blackmail, to name a few. Should the state attorney and the IRS be looking into this? If it was any other business they would be.
David Rodman, Dunedin
What's the difference between a casino resort incessantly extracting money from people with addictive behaviors and the Church of Scientology incessantly extracting money from people with addictive behaviors? At least at a casino resort you can have a lot of fun in the process.
Dave Loeffert, Dunedin