Please VOTE DAVID on April 2

Concerns of a University Professor

I have concerns about our K-12 system based on my experience as a professor at Saint Louis University (SLU) and a research scientist in industry. SLU was a wonderful place to teach and do research. My colleagues were great, and I thoroughly enjoyed working with the students. I became aware over the years of how poorly many students were prepared for college course work, and how our higher education, especially graduate programs, was increasingly dependent on international students. These two concerns are one reason I am motivated to serve on the Lindbergh Board of Education. Let me explain.

The undergraduate students I taught at SLU during my sixteen years as a professor were the product of our K-12 education system. I noticed changes in my students’ abilities. Many students lacked basic skills let alone good study skills such as how to read textbooks, take book and lecture notes, and study for exams. Similarly, many science majors lacked math skills that were needed in science courses. I eventually required my students to do their math calculations with a pencil on paper to help them (re)learn some math fundamentals. And unfortunately, many students brought an attitude of entitlement rather than a learner’s mindset to my courses. This attitude was expressed in comments such as “I attended your lectures, thus I deserve a good grade” and “I did all of my homework, thus I should get an A.” and “You gave me a low grade.” When the latter was expressed, I would respond that students earn their grades, they are not given grades.

Most people might not realize that our more technically oriented graduate programs in the U.S. are not being filled by students educated in our K-12 system. This has been true for many years. In the table shown below is data (footnote 1) from the National Science Foundation illustrating the preponderance of international-born and -trained students in some technical fields. We should always welcome international students into our U.S. graduate programs, but we also need to ensure that U.S. students are well prepared to enroll and do well in these programs as well. We need to ask why US students are not enrolling in technical graduate programs? What steps do we need to course-correct? Does our approach or focus to teaching math and science need to change in the K-12 setting?

The lack of U.S. born and educated students will ultimately hurt the U.S. One anecdote I can provide in support of this proposition is from what I observed at Shell International Exploration and Production company in Houston, Texas. I worked for nine years in the research arm of Shell comprised of a hundred(s) Ph.D. scientists. I estimate half of the scientists were international, partially reflecting the company’s commitment to an international workforce, but also because many scientists trained solely in the U.S. were not as competitive for these coveted positions. As long as top-tier scientists want to come to the U.S., the Shell branch in Houston will be able to function well; if the pipeline of talent is ever shut-off, the organization would struggle. A recent article (footnote 2) published in Forbes entitled “American Universities Are Losing Chinese Students To Rivals: U.S.-China Business Forum” provides a warning about how the pipe-line of students might be changing, though enrollment trends of international students did increase this past year after the Forbes article was written.

I am concerned that if we don’t reverse the academic decline in the U.S. K-12 educational system, then our future in an increasingly technical world will not be bright. This is one reason why I am running for the Lindbergh Board of Education. I want to help steer Lindbergh, a historical leader in K-12 education, back to academic rigor and excellence. Please Vote for David in the April 2 election.


Footnote #1 –…/graduate-students…/2021

Footnote #2 –…/american-universities-are…/…