There’s no need to be sorry given I largely agree with you. In my article I reference long-standing cultural attitudes in the US in the opening paragraph, though admittedly my focus is on current emerging trends arising directly from Trump’s election. However, Trump is merely an extremely troubling consequence of attitudes and policy decisions that predated him significantly. I am not arguing America’s education system was running just fine and everyone respected science until he came along.

What changed with the rise of Trumpism is the visibility he and the movement he rode in on brought to the problem. In effect, he made it practically impossible for many people both at home and abroad to continue ignoring or minimizing it. The underlying problems you mention would have persisted had Hillary Clinton been elected, for example, but it’s highly unlikely France’s new president would have been able to easily justify a program that openly advertised itself as an effort to lure American researchers away from the US had she won. So, while the conditions were there before 2016, we didn’t see evidence of dramatic declines in international student enrolment at that time because these conditions didn’t have a public figure that could so readily be identified with them. Now we do.

As for the argument that America’s use of foreign talent is “theft”, I do have to disagree. For one thing, it’s a charge that fails to take into account the desires of the individuals coming to the US (or any other country not their own). I left the US in 2010 to come to Canada, and I came here on a student visa with the intention of eventually receiving permanent resident status and later citizenship. Canada does offer incentives for students educated here to stay, but I wouldn’t say I or any other international students were being stolen from our native country. We chose to come here and many of us want to remain.

Ideally every country would be a place that talent, both foreign and domestic, would find appealing, but that’s sadly not the case. The charge of theft, in addition to failing to take into account the wishes of the person allegedly being stolen, assumes conditions are right in their country of origin to take advantage of the education they’ve received abroad. If that were the case, it’s doubtful as many of them would be seeking educational opportunities in foreign countries as currently do. Corruption, mismanagement, a general lack of investment in R & D/infrastructure, and/or a lousy human rights record are systemic problems that won’t vanish just because students educated overseas return home. Throwing good talent that’s escaped circumstances where it’s difficult to impossible to thrive back into the same situation they were trying to escape will not, by itself, accomplish anything. It’s just a waste of human potential. If nations want to hold on to their native talent or entice it to return home, they need to take some responsibility for creating the conditions that will make staying/returning worthwhile.

That said, the US itself has steadily been reducing its own investments in the areas listed above as well as experiencing a gradual but steady increase in corruption. Up until recently, it was able to capitalize on an image that’s largely a product of past investments in education, research, etc. Again, my argument is simply that while Trump isn’t the one to blame for America’s steady decline in these areas, his rise is responsible for unmasking the myth that this historic legacy continues to be a reality.

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US citizen residing in British Columbia, Canada. Degrees include anthropology and environmental studies. Activism, politics, science, nature.

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