Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Texas Running Out of Smart People

Photo by Seansie
Today, I read an article about ten states that are running out of smart people.  Guess what?  Texas is number nine.

That Texas is losing smart people is no surprise.  The Texas legislature has reduced funding for higher education for years.  The result has been an increase in tuition and fees.  I can attest to the change in students attending the University of Texas at Austin by simply observing the student inhabitants of a good friend's street.  Once the rental houses on his street were filled with students who drove small used cars and beat-up pick-ups.  Now those same houses have students with new, fancy pickups and BMWs.  Once students on her street picked up their garbage, now they expect their neighbors to. The University is changing from a place for smart kids to a place for rich kids.

Another reason that Texas is losing intelligent people, especially academics, is the unfriendly attitudes of many legislators.  Regenerative medicine is looked on with suspicion.  Every session finds new attacks on any research that offends fundamentalists.  The result is that researchers are leaving the state, even if their research is not controversial.  Many fear that the next legislative whim will be to attack their area of research.  Young researchers seeking positions simply mark Texas off.  There is lack of funding, but more important is the fear that they could waste years on a project that could be prohibited.  Texas colleges and universities are slowly sinking into mediocrity.

Now with a huge budget shortfall, the legislature plans to decimate K-12 education and reduce funds to institutions of higher learning.  This will exacerbate the already bad situation.

Ignorance begets ignorance.  Texas needs to improve its education system.  The legislature needs to stay out of the research.  Of course, the legislature can demand stringent ethics provisions for review of research projects.  But these reviews need to be performed by those that understand the field and by independent ethicists..  Texas does not need to scare anymore scientists away.

All scientists pay attention to the research climate in a state in all areas of research, not just their own.  Texas has gained the reputation as a backward and ignorant state. 

What will the statistics be ten years from now?  Will Texas rank number one in ignorance?  Will Texas' budget parsimony this year destroy our future?

No comments: