In today’s NYT, Tom Friedman weighs-in on Bill Gates’ recent speech about high schools. He’s right that it should occasion more action (and it’s telling that the most noteworthy educational happening since the speech is the NEA lawsuit against No Child). Yet Friedman plays up the economic competitiveness angle (which is obviously an issue) while Gates was really getting at equity. In the speech he pivoted from the economic challenge to the, in his words, “moral” one and focused on disparities by race in today’s system. And, he concluded not by raising the specter of global competitiveness but by saying:
If we keep the system as it is, millions of children will never get a chance to fulfill their promise because of their zip code, their skin color, or the income of their parents. That is offensive to our values, and it’s an insult to who we are.
Today’s system doesn’t work well for poor and minority kids. In terms of our way of life that seems like more of an immediate problem than overseas competition.