From the "Well, I Could Have Told Them THAT" file: Science is hard. They don't call 'em the "hard sciences" for nix.
As America laments its slippage in the world rankings of science education--we currently rank somewhere between Antarctica and Hogwarts--it turns out there is a perfectly reasonable explanation: Science majors at the nation's premier institutes of higher learning--being, as they are. quite brilliant, after all--have decided that advanced classes in calculus and physics hardly merit the slog. Why struggle through a science curriculum when the likely reward after completing doctoral studies is simply overwhelming student loans and a slim possibility of a tenure-track university position or slightly more remunerative research work in industry? Why not use those math smarts to come up with the next economy-wrecking financial shenanigan that will at least reward you handsomely until the bubble bursts?
University science departments have in some cases revamped their curricula to focus more on hands-on activities, allowing students to "do" science rather than just "study" it. A good strategy, and one that other non-scientific disciplines might consider emulating. Indeed, while college administrators lament the fact that science majors opt out of "hard" majors for "easier" ones like the humanities, the solution may rest only partially in making the sciences more palatable. Maybe we should also make the "easy" majors less desirable, i.e., harder. Just as science majors should "do" science, so, too, should those majoring in social sciences and the humanities "do" those fields. Primarily, this means researching and, especially, writing--writing prolifically, writing constantly, writing exhaustingly.
America might then not only lose fewer budding Einsteins in our nation's science programs; America might also gain a few more Roths or Vonneguts or Chabons (take your pick) and a few less Dan Browns.