Tom Friendman’s chapter The Quiet Crisis lists 6 dirty little secrets – problems we haven’t admitted to having as a nation, so we have done almost nothing to solve them. These may all sound technical…but think them through. These failures are affecting the quality of our lives, and those effects will broaden exponentially over the next decade.
Dirty Little Secret No. 1 – The Numbers Gap
We are not going to remain at the head of the pack with our advanced economy if we don’t find a way to increase the number of scientists and engineers we are training. Half of America’s current crop are 40 or older – in NASA, 40% are over 50, and are retiring.
Dirty Little Secret No. 2 – The Education Gap at the Top
A headline in Education Week in July of 2004 says it all: “Immigrants’ Children Inhabit the Top Ranks of Math, Science Meets.” And our kids are below international averages in applying math skills to real-life tasks.
Dirty Little Secret No. 3 – The Ambition Gap
Several prominent American CEO’s told Tom in whispers that when they outsource jobs to other countries, they save 75% on wages – and get a 100% increase in productivity.
Dirty Little Secret No. 4 – The Education Gap at the Bottom
There is no future in mass production jobs any more, and yet we haven’t found a way to upgrade the skills of all of our young people to a very high standard. Without that, “the only way the low-skilled can compete is by driving down their wages.” One major key to change according to Tom is for public schools to deliver a standard curriculum, with money out of each state’s general budget.
Dirty Little Secret No. 5 – The Funding Gap
The federal government is no longer funding the research that would lead to continued American technological leadership in building the jobs of tomorrow. And it’s beginning to show: the percentage of American papers published in the top physics journal has fallen from 61% to 29% since 1983. And the number of American patents is starting to fall.
Dirty Little Secret No. 6 – The Infrastructure Gap
A quote: “In the first three years of the Bush Administration, the United States dropped from 4th to 13th place in the global rankings of broadband internet usage.” And as of April, 2005, we had dropped to 16th. And what we measure as broadband service – 200 Kbps – ‘wouldn’t cut the mustard in much of…the world.’ Japanese consumers pay the equivalent of $10 per month for service 40 times as fast.