Friday, December 30, 2005

The "Flattening" World


This is the follow-up post to my first entry on "The World is Flat" by Thomas L. Friedman. I have finished the book and thought a little bit about what it means to us as educators. There is simply no way around it. We have to be smarter and more innovative if we want to continue to live the "good life" as we know it.

I was introduced to the term "fungible" is this book. To be fungible is to be freely exchangeable for or replaceable by another of like nature or kind according to Dictionary.com This what our low-skilled workers are becoming in the flatter world. Data-entry, factory workers, call centers, basic accountants, and even radiologists are losing their jobs to workers in India, China, and Russia. We will continue to lose these low-level jobs due to the impossibly low wages and superior efforts of these outsourced laborers. So, what do we do?

We get smarter. We move up vertically in the job market. Our economy will not suffer if we continue to make innovative products and offer needed services. But, innovation requires knowledge. And our knowledge base is eroding. Only 5% of American students graduate with engineering degrees as compared to Russia with 25% and China with 46%. The number of science and engineering graduates in the United States in 2003 was 400,000. In Europe the total was 830,000. In Asia the science and engineering graduates totaled 1.2 million. In engineering specifically, universities in Asia now produce eight times as many bachelor's degrees as the United States.

The point being, that the world is hungry. Many countries feel that this is "their" time to grow, prosper, and shine. Our country needs to realistically assess the current situation and prepare itself for what's on the way. We need to focus on how we can best prepare our children to compete in a global economy.

If you walk into a classroom in your district and it looks the same as it did twenty years ago, something is wrong. Our lack of preparedness is referred to by Friedman as the "quiet crisis." Let's start shouting before it's too late.
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