Sunday, September 9, 2012

Tom Friedman Makes A Good Living By Repeating The Same Story

This is another article by a guy who has developed a great way to make a lot of money.  He keeps repeating the same story over and over and over.  He gets paid a lot of money for doing so.  His story is simple.  Hyper-globalization is inevitable.  Other nations are doing a better job of educating their kids.  Instead of having a global arms race, we are engaged in a global education race, and we are losing the race.  The implication is that we could fix our economic problems by fixing our education system.  If he is correct in his analysis, he should be more concerned with the fixing the problems in the education system.  He has nothing to offer but vignettes about education in the last place that he visited in his global travels.  This time he tells us that Estonia teaches computer programming in grade school.  Does that make teaching math, and the ability to analyze a situation, and write a decent story about what was read obsolete?  Our grade schools would be in great shape if we could do that well.  The kids already know how to use twitter and  Facebook;  they can even text while they ride their bikes.  There is nothing special about the NYT reporters who are using the same tools.  He could provide a more valuable service if he had some meaningful suggestions about funding the public schools, community colleges, and our public universities.  The lack of funding makes it difficult to attract and retain quality teachers.  School administrators spend much of the time trying to run the schools with fixed expenses and shrinking budgets.  The high cost of higher education has also created an affordability problem that prevents many from even considering the option of higher education.

We will get a similar story from Friedman after his next visit to a nation that is beating us in the education race.  He spiced this article up by telling us that Bill Clinton's speech reflected values that are outmoded in a period of hyper-globalization.  It is no longer sufficient to work hard and play by the rules to get ahead.  Globalization presents us with "future shock".  The world changes so rapidly that everyone must be prepared to adapt to rapid change by reinventing themselves as technology advances.  Apparently, most people will not be able to earn a good living by repeating the same story over and over again, and by refreshing the story with the latest catchy phrases that Friedman is so good at.

One of the reasons that Friedman gets so much attention is that everyone would like to have better education system.  Few would argue against improving the quality of education.  By focusing on the education system, however, we ignore the economic system, and the problems faced by nation states that are forced to adapt to an economy shaped by multinational corporations that put their interests ahead of the states in which they are domiciled only by choice.  They, and many of their executives are also good at avoiding the taxes that we need to fund our schools.

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