Thoughts after reading The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman

I realize how late I am in coming to the discussion of the phenomenon(s) illustrated in Thomas L. Friedman’s The World is Flat , but the book has me thinking and I thought I might as well blog about it to help myself sort all of his “stuff” out.

The fact that technology is changing everything has really played out in the past two or three years on national stage. We watched Barack Obama raise unprecedented amounts of money for his campaign and network thousands of volunteers by using the social networks created by what Mr. Friedman calls flateners (basically all new technologies dealing with data transfer and communication). The companies and institutions that have successfully employed new strategies based upon exploiting new technologies are the ones getting ahead. Walmart, Dell, Rolls Royce, and dozens of smaller less know entities are all examples that Friedman sets forth in the book to show how new technology and the collaboration they foster are rapidly changing the economic landscape of the world. He argues that the availability of instant information, connectivity and data transfer is allowing the field of economic competition to be leveled in ways it never has before. New groups of people, hungry for a better standard of living are joining the world markets and changing the dynamics of the economic landscape of the world.

I jotted down a few notes as I read (I actually listened to it as I ran then wrote the notes when I sat down to recover). The following snippets are some of my thoughts as I digested the material.

Somewhere I read in a business magazine the ratings of 150 ranking organizations in harnessing new technologies. American public schools ranked 150th. LAST! Friedman says the South Korea has more broadband capacity than the U.S. Can that be true? What does this say about our ability to stay on top of what our students need to be able to do and experience to compete in the world job market? We ban students from using some of these tools in schools because we are afraid they will abuse them (i.e. cell phones, My Space, Facebook, Youtube…etc.) Where will they learn to use them properly????? To continue this rather incoherent line of thought, and I am paraphrasing a passage in the book, we have stopped telling our children to clean their plates, their are children starving in India and China, and instead we need to start telling our kids, do your math and science homework, the kids in China and India are doing theirs and they are happy to have the opportunity to do it.

Friedman argues in his later chapters that in order for all societies in all parts of the world to take advantage of the new broadening, flat economic landscape, that their needs to be a concerted effort to bring all social strata into the changing landscape and allow them to have access and understanding of the new tools for the exchange of information and data. The phrase in his book that continues to ring in my ears (again this is paraphrased) is that the difference between the middle class and those who are considered below middle class is hope. He argues the middle class is the belief in upward mobility. Those nations and societies that are experiencing rapid qualitative changes in their standards of living, for the first time, are thriving on hope….and believing that they can make their way out of poverty. I can’t help but look at and think about our own situation here in Paris and wonder, do a majority of our students and their families have that hope? Do they believe that it is possible to raise their standard of living? Did the war on poverty actually, by rewarding those who did not seek to improve their job skills or to retrain themselves, take away the motivation to raise their standard of living and/or remove the hope that it was possible?

Friedman stated that American public schools are actually out-producing American private school when comes to the students that are qualified to go to MIT and Cal Poly Tech. That many of the students in private schools have a sense of entitlement and do not work as hard and therefor are not performing as well as some of their public school counterparts. He stated that the common denominator for these highly successful students are parents who push their children and make education important and make sure learning opportunities are available both in and out of school. Unfortunately, according to Friedman, we are in a crisis in the U.S. when it comes to parenting our children to be strong students. Almost every public school is capable of producing and does produce high performing students, those schools that have parents that make education important for their children are the schools that are producing students that are prepared to compete in the newly flat world.

I have a lot more notes …..and I will most likely continue the topic of this entry in my next blog……..

Leave a Reply