The Debate Is Flat

CSM’s Clayton takes a look at the competing numbers about engineering grads in different countries and a new Duke study on the issue. Instructive in terms of today’s flat world hysteria.*

By the way, just because many of these same folks have been wrong before (and scapegoated public schools) about various threats to our country doesn’t axiomatically mean they’re wrong again as some seem to be arguing (though not the Dukies). It’s just that it seems to Eduwonk that (a) the scale and time horizon of the competitive challenge is more complicated than you’re going to get on Lou Dobbs nor as simple as just producing more engineers and (b) it will be a shame if a renewed push on math and science grads is the next big thing in education at the expense of addressing the equity problem which threatens to make America look a lot like a Third World country over time. The latter seems a real risk since it’s a lot easier for business leaders to run around saying we need more math and science grads than go to state capitals and force legislators to deal with the more thorny and hot-button equity-related questions about, for instance, licensing for educators, school finance, collective bargaining agreements, or pluralism in service provision and educational choice that need fixing but piss a lot of people off.

*Still Hungry: Eduwonk has read the book and heard flat-world guru Thomas Friedman speak several times and his argument is an interesting one but despite the nice food that’s always served at these affairs it’s easy to leave hungry. That’s because the very same forces Friedman argues are driving this new round of globalization seem to be the very forces that a lot of people involved in school improvement, particularly the social entrepreneurs, are trying to bring to bear on public schools: more nimbleness, responsiveness, and dynamism. Why does Friedman have so little to say about how these forces matter to an important and decidedly non-flat world American institution and how they could be used to improve it? At a recent luncheon about schools his big edurecommendation in the flat world was for students to take courses from teachers they like. Great advice, sure, but taking four years of math and English in high school is probably a smart bet-hedging strategy, too! And, doesn’t he have any advice at all for the system itself, for educators, for policymakers, for parents?

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