In his book The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman makes many compelling arguments describing how America is losing its edge in innovation and how our education system is starting to fail us.Â Other prominent Americans have noticed this slippery slope, as well.Â Therefore, a Council was formed and a lengthy report was published dealing the issues of decline and the necessary reform of the system.
Friedman elaborates: (partially paraphrased for relevancy)
On December 15, 2004, the Council on Competitiveness hosted a National Innovation Initiative Summit, to release its long-term study “Innovate America: Thriving in a World of Challenge and Change” –a detailed bipartisan analysis by America’s leading technologists and industrialists about how to re-energize American competitiveness through more research, education, and innovation.Â Several months after the report came out, China’s vice minister of science and technology visited the Council’s president.Â The president offered to share the report but it wasn’t necessary.
“He said they had already translated the report and were planning to integrate it into their twenty-year strategic plan, said the Council’s president, adding that while the council had taken the initiative to share the report with other countries, “the Chinese came to us–we didn’t come to them.”Â They had clearly been following the council’s work very closely, which is published on its website.Â The Council’s president, Deborah Wince-Smith said these days she is wondering “whether we are going to implement the Innovate America report or China is going to beat us to our own plan.”
Don’t laugh.Â The day the Innovate America report was released the public in Washing, the authors, who as I said, were a very high-powered group of American educators and business leaders, begged the White House to have President Bush attend the ceremony, in the hope that he would use his bully pulpit to highlight their report and draw national attention to it.Â The president’s aides refused the request, apparently because they thought it would dilute his message of the day.
And where was President Bush speaking that day?Â He was literally down the hall, in the very same Regan Building, at the exact same time the Innovate America report was being issued.Â He was holding his own economic summit, speaking to a carefully selected audience that included many Republican campaign donors…The president spoke against a backdrop that was printed with the words “Securing Our Economic Future.”Â So there was the president trying to take apart the old New Deal–just when he should have been using his office to promote a New New Deal for the 21st Century.Â And down the hall, a bipartisan group headed by Sam Palmisano, CEO of IBM and G. Wayne Clough, president of Georgia Tech, was offering up just such a New New Deal agenda at a National Innovation Summit and the president could not devote five minutes to it.Â But the Chinese immediately translated it.
Many people from the Western world, particularly Americans have the long-held belief that China is backwards.Â From the latter years of the Qing dynasty when China was overrun with foreigners and carved up, to the years of Communism including the Cultural Revolution and devastating Agriculture Plan, to its continued single party, authoritarian, internet-policing regime, China is perceived as backwards and out of touch with the modern world by many Westerners.
But this passage from The World is Flat, makes you wonder, who’s out of touch with the modern world now?Â Who’s backwards now?