mathematics. But competitiveness is a long-term challenge and much remains to be done in the months ahead.
Meanwhile, our competitors have not been standing still. The World Economic Forum dropped America from first to seventh place in its ranking of nations’ preparedness to benefit from advances in information technology; the number of US citizens entering engineering school declined still further; the remnants of the legendary Bell Labs, the birthplace of the laser and the transistor and the home of many Nobel laureates, were sold to a French firm; a new generation of semiconductor integrated circuits—the mortar of the modern electronics revolution—was introduced; the largest initial public offering in history was conducted by a Chinese bank; another $650 billion has been spent on US public schools while the performance of its students on standardized science tests of those about to graduate declined further; American companies once again spent three times more on litigation than on research; and in July, for the first time in history, foreign automakers sold more cars in the United States than American manufacturers.
The competitiveness issue as seen some 18 months after the National Academies’ study was completed is the topic of this essay. Its content is based on congressional testimony and a series of lectures by the author and thus offers a less formal but updated version of the findings in the Academies’ report. Although this essay draws heavily on that report and other sources, the views expressed herein are those of the author.