Topics: Civics, Commentary, Existentialism, Politics, Research, STEM
As a species, most of what we have come to know as science and develop its different branches as well as engineering comes from our hunter-gatherer ancestors in Africa or Pangaea, dependent on the state of our sphere's geological evolution. I'm an anomaly as a graduate student. I'm "non-traditional" in that I started this program on my 55th birthday (my children are adult men). I'm an African American having majored in physics and again majoring in a STEM field (Nanoengineering), which is interesting in a place LIKE America. America: Where it's important to "debate" the efficacy of creationism vs. evolution; whether the universe is 6,000 or 13.8 billion (at least as far as our telescopes can currently see) years old. Where Bill Nye the Science Guy can have a public "debate" with Ken Ham of the morbidly performing (monetarily) Creation Museum. Where the COSMOS reboot can have online trolls and will likely have them again in March. Where anti-vaccine advocates finally got a president* that will let them affect the CDC notion of herd immunity and might kick off the next pandemic, courtesy of the USA. AS RESEARCH FOR his latest novel, The Quantum Spy, Washington Post reporter David Ignatius spoke with some of the world’s leading experts on quantum computing, which led him to believe that we may see a working quantum computer in the next five years. “Initially what I would hear back from technologists was, ‘it’s fascinating if it works,’ and I hear more now ‘fascinating when it works,'” Ignatius says in Episode 291 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “There’s a sense that these problems probably can be solved.”
The downside is that a quantum computer would be the cyber warfare equivalent of a nuclear bomb, which means the US government is often reluctant to let foreign scientists work on the most promising research. It’s a system that can slow down progress due the lack of ‘smart Americans,’ as one character in the book puts it.
“The number of American citizens who can do very high-end research who also can easily get security clearances is limited,” Ignatius says. “The ability of our schools to produce American students at a world-class level, that’s an important national challenge.” 
...lack of 'smart Americans'...ouch!
I'm a product of Sputnik scaring the bejesus out of America and a slew of money was put in public education...fast, to catch us up with the Russians (you know, back-in-the-day when we weren't colluding with them to topple our federal republic). The country invested in education from a republican president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and continued through successive administrations regardless of party affiliation, the ONE thing at the time we could all agree on as a country. Now, stupidity is a virtue. To be too smart is a liability, especially if you're female, a minority or other-than white Anglo Saxon Protestant (WASP). It's the equivalent of barring slaves from reading the Bible (the whole "setting the captives free" thing), and some actively discouraging their fellows from the dangers of learning. And just for icing on the cake, the previous year's Doomsday estimate of two one half minutes has been moved up by 30 seconds: it is now two minutes to midnight. As a former high school nerd that used to be terrorized by the football athletes and the Barbie-perfect cheerleaders, it appears the "beautiful people" have won, dangerously dumb as they are. It also appears fear - a great motivator sales agents, especially in the home security industry use to the HILT - has triumphed. Part of the attraction to Creationism, Intelligent Design and "Alternative Facts" is that actual facts shake strongly held beliefs that humans tend to challenge to right their cognitive dissonance. It never occurs that the text of several cultures was limited by the technology of the times. For example, "cattle on a thousand hills" is a specific reference to enormous size, usually associated with wealth. The etymology of the word "million" did not enter the lexicon until circa the 14th Century. From the link at Etymology online: "The ancient Greeks had no name for a number greater than ten thousand, the Romans for none higher than a hundred thousand. "A million" in Latin would have been decies centena milia, literally "ten hundred thousand." To say to an ancient culture: "King David was a millionaire and his son Solomon was a billionaire" would have had no meaning to the audience at that time. A great analogy by Joe Madison on Sirius XM used a petri dish to describe culture: when you place a bacterial sample in the petri, a culture usually grows, his point being whatever you encourage will eventually manifest. Again, when you deal in nonsense, you get it. I'd be greatly confused as a young person in public education now. WHAT exactly do you want me to study? based on what our culture currently values: actors, athletes, charlatan ministers fleecing their flocks with promises of spiritual "trickle-down" wealth; not doctors, scientists or engineers. The careers of the future necessarily involves hard, demonstrable FACTS. International industries will follow the brain power - away from us, thus other places will see a rise in their middle classes while ours struggles, stumbles and falters ever downward. The peddling of the alternative type [of facts] is undermining our trust in institutions like our intelligence services and our government. Anarchy only sounds noble, and it doesn't eventually work itself out to Nirvana. It's usually - by the evidence of historical, documented FACTS - a failed state.
"One of the things taken out of the curriculum was civics," Zappa went on to explain. "Civics was a class that used to be required before you could graduate from high school. You were taught what was in the U.S. Constitution. And after all the student rebellions in the Sixties, civics was banished from the student curriculum and was replaced by something called social studies. Here we live in a country that has a fabulous constitution and all these guarantees, a contract between the citizens and the government – nobody knows what's in it...And so, if you don't know what your rights are, how can you stand up for them? And furthermore, if you don't know what's in the document, how can you care if someone is shredding it?" , 
 Why Aren’t There More Smart Americans? Stephen Voss, Wired "Geeks Guide to the Galaxy"
 "Notes From the Dangerous Kitchen," a review and a quote from Frank Zappa, Critics at Large
 America's Best Selling Pocket Constitution Book, Constitution Facts dot com