The World is Flat: Chapter 7,8

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Summary of Chapter Seven: The Right Stuff: Tubas and Test Tubes


Friedman finds in the United States there is a fear of downward mobility. Instead of each generation in a family becoming wealthier, there is a trend for each new generation to be poorer. He interviewed educators and employers to find out what is the right stuff for students to learn to guarantee upward mobility. He found the one most important ability was “learn how to learn” (p. 302). The content one learns in school is soon outdated, but one must keep learning on one's own. Passion and curiosity are two important traits in a flat world, summarized in the following formula: CQ + PQ > IQ. Curiosity quotient plus passion quotient are larger than intelligence quotient.


Education and even self-education are easier than ever with the web. Friedman also recommends liking other people and right-brain activity, such as art and music. High tech abilities must have a context to be useful. Students need “high concept” (beauty, pattern, narrative) and “high touch” (empathy and subtlety) (p. 308) as well as technological skill.


Commentary on Chapter Seven: The Right Stuff: Tubas and Test Tubes


Friedman makes a case for students to be well-rounded and self-learners. Georgia Tech now has its admissions office look for engineering students who play music. It also likes applicants who can think across disciplines.


Friedman believes the United States is naturally the right country for preparing for the next move in globalization. America has a willingness to tear things down and start over. It is flexible in its culture. Bill Gates has praised American universities as the best because they reward risk-taking. Many of our current advances, such as the web browser, magnetic resonance imaging, global technology, fiber optics, and space exploration came from American research universities. America has the most efficient markets and stable government with a rule of law that protects minorities. It fosters openness of inquiry and protects intellectual property. While critics could argue the nuances of these points, they are true enough to explain why Friedman feels Americans do not need to be behind in the technology race.


Summary of Chapter Eight: The Quiet Crisis


The United States cannot rest on its laurels. “The diffusion of knowledge happens faster,” says Friedman (p. 324), so the world keeps learning what we know, and standards are rising. The United States was the only viable economy after World War II and had no competition for fifty years. This bred American generations with a sense of entitlement, explains Friedman. The ethic of consumption replaced hard work. This means the country is now in what he calls a quiet crisis. There is an erosion of scientific and engineering progress. The Russian Sputnik launch in 1957 was the last time Americans felt challenged. President Kennedy responded with the manned space program. Graduate enrollment in science and engineering peaked in 1993 and has been declining since. Scientists from the Sputnik era are retiring and not being replaced. Students have to start preparing for a scientific career in middle school, and fewer are choosing math and science. Young Americans want to become doctors and lawyers. Even reading and writing skills are declining among college graduates. The work ethic among American students is lower than among students in foreign countries who are hungry for success.


Commentary on Chapter Eight: The Quiet Crisis


This criticism of American education has been around for a long time, but Friedman is announcing that it is now at a crisis level, because the United States is not turning out enough scientists. He blames the educational system for not being appropriate for a flat world. Local school boards run schools, making education very uneven, depending on whether one lives in a rich or poor district. It is the suburbs vs. the abandoned inner city. Friedman also accuses the George W. Bush administration of not investing enough money in science education at all levels, or even in funding decent Internet infrastructure. Other countries have superior high-speed Internet access, he notes. And what of the old notion that American students are taught to think more independently and creatively than students in other countries, our supposed advantage? Friedman says that is still an active value in education, but without basic knowledge in an area, creativity is not possible. American students are falling behind in the basics.

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