Reading the Sunday Paper

They were two articles on the opinion page yesterday that caught my attention. The first was by David Broder on a congressional proposal to improve the country’s performance in math and science. Recent reports have shown a disturbing decline in scientific research and the training of scientists and engineers.

They all recite similar warning signs that America’s current economic health conceals significant long-term threats to our prosperity. There has been a steady erosion in investment in the kind of brainpower that keeps a nation competitive — and a consequent decline in American inventiveness.

As a scientist, I have been aware of these trends for years. Many smart people are naturally interested in science and will pursue that career if they believe that they can achieve a comfortable middle class lifestyle. If there are no job prospects then they will go into professional schools. People smart enough to do scientific research are also quite smart enough to become doctors, lawyers, and business leaders. When the internet was booming many of the potential scientists went into computing.

The second article by Leonard Glantz of the Boston University School of Public Health describes a plan by the World Health Organization to stop hiring smokers. I am a non-smoker who appreciates much of the regulation that has kept smoking away from me in public places, but this initiative is going to far. If employers can regulate employees behavior away from work in this instance, where will it end?

One can only imagine WHO’s reaction to a tobacco company that requires all its employees to smoke or a gun company that requires them all to keep a gun and ammunition in their homes. The position that WHO has adopted would neatly support such ludicrous employment requirements.

I am happy that I can go into smoke free restaurants, airplanes, hotel rooms, and workplaces. That doesn’t mean that smokers have to be penalized on the job front, if they continue to smoke at home.

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