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October 17, 2004

Friedman on Education.

Thomas Friedman:

The second group of boomers barreling down the highway are the young people in India, China and Eastern Europe, who in this increasingly flat world will be able to compete with your kids and mine more directly than ever for high-value-added jobs. Attention Wal-Mart shoppers: The Chinese and the Indians are not racing us to the bottom. They are racing us to the top. Young Indian and Chinese entrepreneurs are not content just to build our designs. They aspire to design the next wave of innovations and dominate those markets. Good jobs are being outsourced to them not simply because they'll work for less, but because they are better educated in the math and science skills required for 21st-century work.
When was the last time you met a 12-year-old who told you he or she wanted to grow up to be an engineer? When Bill Gates goes to China, students hang from the rafters and scalp tickets to hear him speak. In China, Bill Gates is Britney Spears. In America, Britney Spears is Britney Spears. We need a Bill Cosby-like president to tell all parents the truth: throw out your kid's idiotic video game, shut off the TV and get Johnny and Suzy to work, because there is a storm coming their way.

Several thoughts occur, one that whatever globalisation is doing to the world it isn't changing the topography. The second is that there seems to be a lacunae, a gap in Mr Friedman's economic knowledge. Simply by definition, if engineering is now something that is going to be done by the 2.5 billion Chinese, Indian and E Europeans, those on low incomes, engineering itself has now become a low wage occupation. Encouraging Americans to be engineers is akin to ensuring that they become poor. What the US (and other currently rich countries) need to do is the things that those 2.5 billion will not be doing. Just as Generals always prepare to fight the last war so, it seems, do commentators prepare to fight the last economic battle, not the future one.
My third and final observation is that of course he is correct on the importance of education. So we'll be crusading to make the US system better will we? Rigorous anaylsis of where it is going wrong and implementation of the solutions? Oops, no, sorry, I forgot. The Times will not turn on the teaching unions nor advocate vouchers.

October 17, 2004 in Academia | Permalink

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» Carnival of the Capitalists - October 25 2004 from The Big Picture
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