IMMIGRATION….Britain is having a problem with falling proficiency in math and science, and the Economist highlights one of the infrequently-cited reasons for this:

Teachers across the system are ageing, but the problem is acute in maths and science. Recruiting people to teach those subjects is getting ever harder. There is a shortage of 3,500 qualified maths teachers alone. Last year just 350 newly graduated mathematicians went into teaching.

One of the main reasons why maths and science graduates are in such short supply is increasing demand for their skills: good maths graduates are snapped up by, for instance, financial-services firms. Whereas most new history teachers have good degrees, most maths teachers have bad ones. That creates a vicious circle. Subjects badly taught now will produce fewer teachers in future.

In other words, the very fact that math and science have become more valuable has also become one of the seeds of its own destruction. Math and science teachers generally aren’t paid any differently than anyone else, so only the bad ones go into teaching, and those bad ones in turn are pretty unlikely to inspire students to take up the subject in the future.

(As an aside, one of the reasons they aren’t paid more at the university level is the argument that this inegalitarianism would impair the famed “collegiality” of unversity faculties, a proposition I have always found amusing. If there is another institution that is generally less collegial than a university faculty, I’m at a loss to think of it.)

In America this problem has been papered over ? for the moment ? by a flood of highly educated immigrants, many of whom, for example, form the core of Silicon Valley. I suspect most Americans don’t realize just how much of our high tech economy is based not on good old American know how, but rather on a relatively liberal immigration policy.

Remember that the next time someone complains about “all those damn immigrants” and how they’re taking jobs away from honest hardworking Americans. The fact is that most immigrants take either entry level jobs that Americans aren’t willing to work hard enough to take themselves, or technical jobs that most Americans aren’t willing to work hard enough to learn. What’s more, these immigrants have lots of kids, and these are the kids who will be paying for our social security when we retire.

The next time you meet an immigrant you should give them copious thanks, both for what they contribute now and what they will contribute in the future. They deserve it.

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