"Science" in India

Bijoy Misra bmisra at FAS.HARVARD.EDU
Thu Oct 19 12:30:55 UTC 2000

Dear Steve (Farmer),
I don't know you personally.  But that you could interview
one student in Stanford and then flood the net with opinion
on the quality of scientists and engineers of Indian origin
does not say much about your own scientific thinking.  Pardon
me for saying this, but your absurd generalizations does sound
extremely irresponsible and you must rethink your empiricism.

I have been a teacher in the US for more than twenty years and
have brushed through school systems with two children of my own.
Person to person the training in mathematics and sciences in high
schools in India would be superior to such training in public
schools in the US.  It has not to do with the resources, but the
quality of the teachers.  That the children do not rise up to continue
career of research comes from the deep economic handicap the family
faces immediately.  It's changing though.  Do interview any of the
new engineers who are flooding the US, who even do not come from
the quality schools.  Do observe the respect they gain at the
American workplace.  They do not have a research resume with them,
but certainly carry a head of objective thinking to deal with
rational logic of computing.  The keyword is "objective".

Hope you would contemplate rather than getting angry.  To make
sweeping generalizations from places of importance is not helpful
to your colleagues.  Unfortunately it conotes an attitude that
better be not displayed in public.  Hope you would rethink
and engage in a more meaningful dialog.

Best regards,

Bijoy Misra

On Wed, 18 Oct 2000, Steve Farmer wrote:

> I wrote (about the recent OUTLOOK article on Indian science):
> > The emphasis on narrow technological training,
> > >moreover (resulting, as the article puts it, in "an army of
> > >techno-coolies") means that most Indian engineers and scientists
> > >receive virtually no humanistic training at all.
> Vidyasankar Sundaresan responded:
> > Steve, this is a completely unwarranted leap in reasoning. I say this in all
> > possible friendliness - you are just so full of it. The article in Outlook
> > says zilch about the humanities requirements, or even the science courses at
> > the teaching level. It only talks about the higher level research in science
> > and technology.
> This is my conclusion, Vidyasankar, not based on the article but
> on recent discussions I've had with Indian grad students in
> engineering and the sciences. One guy I talked to the other day
> getting his Ph.D. (in physics?) at Stanford - really intelligent
> - admitted to me that all he had *ever* had in school was
> scientific training. This, of course, is a problem with US
> science grad students today as well: There is an old comedy
> routine about engineers going to "More Science High School" in
> the US. Anyway, my friend told me that he knew nothing at all
> about ancient India until he heard Subhash Kak (an engineer, of
> course) speak at Stanford, several weeks before! His first
> question for me: What did I think of the "revolutionary" studies
> David Frawley?!
> > If you think Indian
> > science students do not get sufficient humanistic training, let me let you
> > in on a secret. On the average, Indian humanities students get very little
> > quality training. In the process, humanistic teaching for science and
> > engineering programs receives the lowest priority, not because the
> > scientists are blocking it, but because the humanists often couldn't care
> > less.
> Or because they don't have the funding. But you are only proving
> my point for me: What the OUTLOOK article refers to as
> "techno-coolies" are, in fact, among those who fall hardest for
> the Hindutva mythologizing of history, in part because they have
> no meaningful humanistic training at all.
> > ps. What exactly do you mean by pop-Hindu? Is there anything specially
> > "Hindu" about it? As one interested in comparative studies, would you call
> > the to-do about the The Bible Code pop-Judaic? Isn't it even pop-Christian?
> Yes, I think that "pop-Christian" and similar terms are
> appropriate labels for people who fall for the "Bible Code"
> nonsense (hidden meanings in the old texts, etc.). Nice ring to
> them, really. :^)
> Steve

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