Nobel prizes grow in U.S. public schools


I’m an advocate of public schools. I graduated from public schools, I attended two state universities, Universities of Utah and Arizona, graduating from one. My law degree came from a private institution, George Washington University’s National Law Center. I’ve taught at public and private schools.

Public schools are better, on the whole. Public schools form a pillar of U.S. national life that we should protect, and build on, I find.

That’s not a popular view among elected officials, who generally seem hell bent on privatizing every aspect of education. We would do that at our peril, I believe.

We can argue statistics, we can argue funding and philosophy — believe me, I’ve been through it all as a student, student leader, parent, U.S. Senate staffer (to the committee that deals with education, no less), teacher and college instructor. I find fair analysis favors the public schools over private schools in almost ever circumstance.

Though I admit, it’s nice to have private schools available to meet needs of some students who cannot be fit into education any other way. Those students are few in any locality, I find.

There is one area where the quality of U.S. public schools shines like the Sun: Nobel prizes. In the 100+ years Nobels have been around, students out of U.S. public schools have been awarded a lot of those prizes. Public school alumni make up the single largest bloc of Nobel winners in most years, and perhaps for the entire period of Nobels.

I think someone should track those statistics. Most years, I’m the only one interested, and in many years I’m too deeply involved in other work to do this little hobby.

2017 seems to be off to a great start, spotlighting U.S. public school education.

Comes this Tweet from J. N. Pearce, editor of the Salt Lake Tribune:

Followed by a Tweet from a Utah teacher, Tami Pyfer, noting that Kip Thorne is not the only Utah public school kid to win recently:

Two categories of prizes have been announced already in 2017, Medicine and Physiology, and Physics.

In both categories, the prizes went to three Americans. In Medicine or Physiology, for their work on circadian rhythms, the prize went to
Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young.

Physics Nobel winners Rainer Weiss, Barry C. Barish and Kip S. Thorne. 2017 Physics Laureates. Ill: N. Elmehed. © Nobel Media 2017

Physics Nobel winners Rainer Weiss, Barry C. Barish and Kip S. Thorne. 2017 Physics Laureates. Ill: N. Elmehed. © Nobel Media 2017

In Physics, for work on gravity waves, the prize went to Rainer Weiss, Barry C. Barish and Kip S. Thorne.

Thorne, we already know, was born in Logan, Utah, and graduated from Logan High School. Rainer Weiss was born in Berlin, so it is unlikely he attended U.S. public schools — but I haven’t found a definitive answer to that question. All three of the Physiology or Medicine winners were born in the U.S. Michael Young was born in Miami, but attended high school in Dallas. Oddly, Dallas media haven’t picked up on that yet. Dallas has some good private schools, and some of the nation’s best public schools.

(That article from the Logan Herald-Journal notes Logan High School also graduate Lars Peter Hansen, Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics, in 2013.)

Nobels in Chemistry will be announced Wednesday, October 4; Literature will be announced Thursday, October 5 (this category award often goes to non-Americans); Peace will be announced Friday, October 6 (another category where U.S. kids win rarely); and the Nobel Memorial prize for Economics will be announced next Monday, October 9.

Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young. Ill. Niklas Elmehed. © Nobel Media 2017.

Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young. Ill. Niklas Elmehed. © Nobel Media 2017.

If you know where any of these winners attended primary and secondary education, would you let us know in comments? Let’s track to see if my hypothesis holds water in 2017. My hypothesis is that the biggest bloc of Nobel winners will be products of U.S. public schools.

As I post this, the Chemistry prize announcement is just a half-hour away. Good night!

A video about the work of Kip Thorne, from CalTech:

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One Response to Nobel prizes grow in U.S. public schools

  1. Interesting theory! I hate to see money taken away from public schools.

    Like

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