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California’s Dumbed-Down Schooling Torpedoing US Defense vs. China, Russia

California’s Dumbed-Down Schooling Torpedoing US Defense vs. China, Russia

A Long March 5B rocket lifts off from the Wenchang launch site on China's southern Hainan island on May 5, 2020. Another variant of the Long March rocket was used to get China's hypersonic missile into orbit in July. (STR/AFP via Getty Images)

John Seiler

John Seiler

9/19/2023

Updated: 9/19/2023

Commentary
This is why I keep writing about how dangerous it is for California to dumb down education standards, especially for STEM—science, technology, engineering, and math. Look at this: “When we see the low level in mathematics and physics today throughout the Western school structure, we say to ourselves that the light will come from elsewhere. And this is what we are seeing.”
That’s the Google translation of an article last month in French, “What Could Be the Reasons for the Western Delay in Hypersonic Weapons?” It’s by Jean-Francois Geneste, described as having “nearly 40 years of experience in the aeronautics, space and defense fields. He was scientific director of the EADS group, now Airbus Group, for 10 years. He was a professor at the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology in Moscow. He is currently the CEO of the startup WARPA which has just been awarded a patent for its infinite specific impulse space propulsion engine.”
He warned, “[I]t seems very unlikely that the West will be able to make hypersonic missiles worthy of the name. What do I mean by that? Not rockets that go to Mach 5, which is the limit between supersonic and hypersonic, but that reach Mach 9 like the [Russian] Zircon at sea level or 27 like the Avangard at high altitude, while remaining maneuverable.”
As I wrote in the Epoch Times, “California Education Board Dumbs Down Math Instruction.” And, “Can Caltech Make New Entrance Standards Work?” I noted how, to cite just one area, here are the top five countries graduating engineers per year:
  • China: 1.3 million
  • India: 1 million
  • Russia: 454,400
  • USA: 237,800
  • Iran: 233,695
California is the high-tech center of America. If we can’t graduate enough students in STEM fields, because standards are dumbed down or our priorities are in the wrong place, then the rest of the country will be harmed as well, because it won’t be able to pick up the slack even if it wanted to. And other states are at risk of imitating these myopic policies.
The Wall Street Journal reported Sept. 15: West Virginia University “will eliminate a Ph.D. in mathematics, master’s in public administration, most foreign-language instruction, graduate degrees in higher-education administration, and ceramics and sculpture degrees. Faculty cuts will include positions in its schools of law, mathematical and data science and public health, and in its chemistry and plant and soil-sciences programs.”
The Admiral Gorshkov frigate of the Russian navy launches a Zircon hypersonic cruise missile in the White Sea, on Nov. 29, 2021, in a still image from real-time camera footage released by AP. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

The Admiral Gorshkov frigate of the Russian navy launches a Zircon hypersonic cruise missile in the White Sea, on Nov. 29, 2021, in a still image from real-time camera footage released by AP. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

Balance of Terror

All this is crucial because, now that we’re in Cold War 2.0 with Russia and China, we ought to remember the key concept of Cold War 1.0 (1946-1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed): the Balance of Terror. Both sides, the U.S. and U.S.S.R., continually built and maintained militaries, including nuclear-tipped missiles, of roughly equal force. As strategist Henry T. Nash wrote in his 1975 book, “Nuclear weapons and international behavior”: “Change, unfamiliarity, and the disconcerting potentialities of technology make balance of terror constantly precarious.”
The balance must be maintained so one side doesn’t gain an advantage and use it to destroy the other side. And when arms control negotiations began in the mid-1980s between President Reagan and President Gorbachev, they aimed to reduce nuclear weapons from a similar peak down to a lower number. It worked. We’re still here.
But now in Cold War 2.0, America currently is at a severe disadvantage. Genest references this Aug. 20 article from the Eurasian Times, by NC Bipindra, “China ‘Races Ahead’ As Global Leader In Hypersonic Missile Program: US, Russia Still Playing Catch Up.” He wrote “current supply chains, including the manufacturing base, supply of critical materials, testing infrastructure, and workforce, cannot support DoD’s ambitious plans” for hypersonic weapons.
Bipindra quoted a report by the Emerging Technologies Institute: “However, a combination of supply chain issues and inconsistent demand has contributed to a significant lag in U.S. hypersonic weapons development and deployment. The DoD has often wavered in its commitment to fielding hypersonic systems at scale. Some years, it has been a clear priority, while other times, the commitment has been ambiguous.”
It wouldn’t surprise me if the internal problem stems from the DoD—Department of Defense—neglecting the weapons we need in favor of DEI—diversity, equity, and inclusion—and general “wokeness.”
In February the Congressional Research Service produced an excellent, 32-page updated overview of the state of hypersonic systems in the U.S., Russia, and China, “Hypersonic Weapons: Background and Issues for Congress.” It noted “former Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (USD[R&E]) Michael Griffin has testified to Congress that the United States does not ‘have systems which can hold [China and Russia] at risk in a corresponding manner, and we don’t have defenses against [their] systems.’”
A woman reaches to touch a robotic arm developed by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory on display at the DARPA Robotics Challenge Expo at the Fairplex in Pomona, California, on June 6, 2015. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

A woman reaches to touch a robotic arm developed by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory on display at the DARPA Robotics Challenge Expo at the Fairplex in Pomona, California, on June 6, 2015. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

STEM Education Is the Key

Unfortunately, the CRS overview didn’t discuss the inadequacies of STEM education in America, such as the low number of engineers being graduated compared to our competitors. Neither did a Sept. 18 Wall Street Journal article, “Hypersonic Missiles Are Game-Changers, and America Doesn’t Have Them.” But it reported: “The Pentagon’s problems with developing hypersonics run up and down the decision chain, from failed flight tests and inadequate testing infrastructure to the lack of a clear, overarching plan for fielding the weapons. The situation is raising alarms among some former officials. “
And get this: “Beijing often used American research on hypersonics—published openly in scientific journals—that the U.S. government funded for decades. Among other things, American researchers published on computational fluid dynamics, which helps model hypersonic flight, only to see China develop codes that clearly used those developed in the U.S.”
The article quoted Liu Pengyu, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, who “said the U.S. had preceded Beijing in hypersonics work and accused Washington of spreading hypersonic technology.” The gall! In an official statement, Pengyu wrote, “We will never be engaged in an arms race with any country.” Yeah, right.
Let me conclude by saying a lot of what the Pentagon is doing is classified. Let’s hope their programs are doing better than the public reports and studies I linked to. But the overall problem remains: Especially in California, America’s dumbed-down universities and K-12 public schools need to ditch the wokeness, “equity” obsessions, and DEI and go back to teaching merit-based STEM courses with rigorous competitive standards.
Our nation’s very survival depends on it.
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John Seiler

John Seiler

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John Seiler is a veteran California opinion writer. Mr. Seiler has written editorials for The Orange County Register for almost 30 years. He is a U.S. Army veteran and former press secretary for California state Sen. John Moorlach. He blogs at JohnSeiler.Substack.com and his email is writejohnseiler@gmail.com

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