Monday, April 18, 2005

A Perspective Not to Be Missed

A colleague here in the office gave me some plane reading last week as I was on my way to a conference in Chicago. It was a copy of a recent the NY Times magazine that comes with the Sunday paper. Tom Friedman had an article in it called The World is Flat. Pretty powerful stuff. Essentially he laid out the challenge facing our country if we are to remain competitive in a world which (thanks to cyber communication) has removed the barriers to the application of intellectual horsepower.

His point is that if we as a county (and that really means we as a business community) don't really get behind a genuine, consolidated effort to push up the educational standards soon, we are in big, big trouble. As he points out, by the time our students get through the 12th grade, they are last in the educational rankings of all the industrialized countries. Not a happy list to be on to say the least.

When you look at the achievement level of students coming out of the educational system in places like China, South Korea, and India, particularly as it relates to math, the sciences, and engineering, and then superimpose the degree to which they outnumber the U.S. in population, the issue seems pretty clear. Just to give you an idea, in China, he says, there are already more people using cell phones than the population of the U.S.

Bottom line, Friedman's point is that in the not too distant future, if we don't get things fixed in this arena, it isn't just going to say Made in China, etc., it will say "Designed in China."

I think he's right.

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