Disclaimer #1: This is not a political blog post. If you try to interpret it as one, then you’re interpreting it improperly.
Disclaimer #2: I’m not about to try and bash business majors or investment bankers. I’m just making a generic point.
Many Americans probably saw President Obama on Jay Leno last night. It was fun enough to watch, and I think was actually a good move by the president to bolster public support by dropping back down to the friendly, laughing American citizen status he had on the campaign trail instead of the all-powerful presidential aura he’s had to take on lately.
I agreed and disagreed with some things that he said, but one thing that I agree enough with to blog about is his take on the role of education and, perhaps more importantly, the tone given to the importance of certain career choices following from education.
I’m going to quote a large part of what he said last night, just so there’s some context. You can find a full transcript at the Huffington Post website (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/03/20/obama-on-tonight-show-wit_n_177206.html).
Well, and part of what happened over the last 15, 20 years is that so much money was made in finance that about 40 percent, I think, of our overall growth, our overall economic growth was in the financial sector. Well, now what we’re finding out is a lot of that growth wasn’t real. It was paper money, paper profits on the books, but it could be easily wiped out.
And what we need is steady growth; we need young people, instead of — a smart kid coming out of school, instead of wanting to be an investment banker, we need them to decide they want to be an engineer, they want to be a scientist, they want to be a doctor or a teacher. And if we’re rewarding those kinds of things that actually contribute to making things and making people’s lives better, that’s going to put our economy on solid footing. We won’t have this kind of bubble-and-bust economy that we’ve gotten so caught up in for the last several years.
I can’t ignore that, as a physics major, I probably have some unavoidable bias here, but I think his argument also makes good sense. We need to reward jobs that contribute to society and make everyone better off rather than jobs which are focused on monetary and personal gain. This doesn’t mean that we don’t need bankers and business men; they’re obviously quite important to the business model that’s been in place for a long time. But we do need people to want to contribute to humanity in more real ways. At the same time, I think we would have a more enlightened culture as a whole if we focus on these types of fields. But that’s quite possibly my bias sneaking out.
And since this blog is syndicated on Fedora Planet, where everyone’s an open source contributer, I’m curious to see what everyone else thinks. Could this sort of mentality work for the country the same way our open source communities do? (As a side note, I’ve read some stuff recently about the government looking into adopting open source software, but that’s a blog for another day.)
By the way, this line of thought reminded me about the XO developer program that David Nalley talked about way-back-when. You can find the project page at http://wiki.sugarlabs.org/go/Math4Team.