I’ve Seen the Future of Silicon Valley

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Science Olympiad is a competition for middle and high school students who get excited by math and science. These are the geeks and hackers of our future; the kids who are good at math and are not ashamed of it. Last Saturday I attended the Bay Area competition, where 500 or so kids competed in events like Science Crime Busters, Ornithology, and Mousetrap Vehicle. Plenty of excitement and love for math and science seen in broad daylight on a weekend; not a common sight.

The picture above is from the closing ceremony. What do we see here? the future of Silicon Valley. Look closely – who do you see in the picture? Happy kids and families from Asia, mainly China and India. This is a self selecting group of people who demonstrate their love for science and math through their deeds, not their words or good intentions. And where are the Caucasians and other ethnicities hiding? They aren’t hiding, they simply didn’t bother to show up. An event like this would interrupt their busy Saturday schedules, and besides, it’s so un-cool. The entire crowd had maybe 10 non Asians.

Why does it matter? It doesn’t, really, but isn’t it amazing that they amounted to about 2% of the crowd, an order of magnitude less than their makeup in the Bay Area population?

I risk sounding racist here, but nothing is farther from the truth. I’m writing this out of sheer admiration to the Asian parents who encourage their kids to participate in the Science Olympiad. Largely an immigrant generation, they made it to the US by virtue of their education, not through a birthright. These brave people arguably understand the value of education far better than the “natives”. Being enterprising newcomers, they leverage the excellent schools and the volunteer workforce to better their children’s future.

I’ve seen the future of Silicon Valley, and I’m happy to report that it’s multicultural, passionate, and hard working. I’m so glad that at least one group of people cares enough about science and math, as this is the greatest hope for this area and indeed the entire country.

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