A continuation of the TWO MILLION MINUTES documentary film, this blog offers deeper insights into education in China, India and the United States, and the challenge America faces. Now you can join a dialog about what governments, communities and families should and are doing to best prepare US students for satisfying careers in the 21st century.
Thanks to the relentless efforts ofDittoePR's Meg Charlebois, one of the top Des Moines talk radio shows invited Bob Compton on the air for 2 half-hour segments to discuss Two Million Minutes.
The radio show, "Mac's World", is hosted by J. Michael "Mac" McKoy - a very bright, articulate, somewhat conservative individual. He is complemented by Bradshaw - a witty, irreverent, intelligent provocateur.
Although this was my first time to be interviewed live on radio, Mac made it a very enjoyable experience.
He quickly grasped the premise of Two Million Minutes and asked very insightful questions. He was also gracious enough to regularly mention our film's screening that evening and helped us draw a large crowd to the Varsity Theater.
There must be something magical about the freezing temperatures of long Iowan winters - they seem to make the hardy people who live in Iowa warmer and more friendly than is typical. The Two Million Minutes team could not have felt more welcome or received more sincere hospitality for our screening at the Varsity Theater in Des Moines. From my cab driver Bob, to the great staff at the 98.3 WOW-FM radio
station, to "BC" the owner of the theater - we were treated like family.
This was our first foray into the Primary States and it was exhilarating. I can tell you from first-hand experience now with nearly 200 audience members, Iowans are smart, knowledgeable on the issues and they really enjoyed Two Million Minutes.
The Q&A period ran well over an hour and the audience was great -- inquisitive and thoughtful about what they had just seen in the film, and eager to have an engaged discussion about policy and leadership for American education.
The exception was one education Professor from a local college - who "held forth" at some length in the Q&A session, called my film "a lie" and insisted that I become "au courant" in what he reverently called "THE LITERATURE". He then turned on his heel and stormed, dramatically, out of the theater - his mind as open as it was when he came in.
I reflected on the literature I know and I just assume he was intending to cite Shakespeare's Julius Caesar - "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves..." - our colleges of education, I guess he means. I don't know, maybe he had different quote in mind from the LITERATURE.
The Iowa screening was our very first major event with ED in '08 - capably led by Holly Zardus from the headquarters office in DC, and supported by a terrific ED in '08 field team in Des Moines, we were able to get the word out about this first public SNEAK preview of Two Million Minutes in only 2 full days.
I mentioned in my earlier post that Lynn - one of the participants in the webcast of Two Million Minutes (on Dec 11, 2007) posted on her blog following the webcast.
While I take no issues with her observations, I do want to respond specifically to her one comment -
The US still produces an impressive number of graduates in science,
engineering and information technology the majority of whom earn
bachelor degrees. China and India have roughly four times the
population of the US.
One should remember that a very high number of enrollments in the under-graduate, graduate and doctoral programs come from countries such as India, China, Vietnam and of course, the European nations. We should not forget the 'second crisis' (maybe, I can convince Bob to embark on a 2MM sequel) that might be taking place - and that crisis being, many foreign students (typically) come to the US for higher studies. With the excellent infrastructure our universities offer and the generous financial assistance qualified students can get, the competition to get into 4-year engineering programs, and 2 year masters' program and the 6 year doctoral program is ONLY increasing.
In my numerous trips to India, I often find many bright engineers deciding to return to India - when I get into discussions about 'quality of life' , 'access to capital', career growth etc - their answers are strikingly different from the days I made the trek to US. India and China are 'welcoming' these ex-patriots. Just by way of an example, let me make my point - my dad was 50 years old when he was able to 'take a home loan' in India. He was repaying the loan well after retirement. That was 25 years ago. Now, young professionals in India can get a car loan, home loan (second home loan) -so, if one is able to put up with a bit of infrastructure nuisances, quality of life and professional career growth in India is VERY appealing to returning engineers.
I personally know several dozen Indians who decided to return to India in the past 3-5 years. This reverse-migration only increases the challenge for the American economy - the few venture capital investors I have spoken to in Bangalore readily admit there is a "wealth" of GOOD managers in India - and if you trace the route of these, these are silicon valley managers/entrepreneurs that were 'educated' in our best engineering schools and then decided to move to India. One can easily understand the economic loss in a situation such as this.
A casual scroll down the halls of universities such as MIT, Stanford, Purdue would (anecdotally) reveal the number of foreign faces in each of the classrooms.
So, in closing, while I respect the report authored/supported by Vivek and Duke, I invite the readers to consider the following:
What the % of foreign students enrolling in the undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs - specifically related to Engineering, Science and Math?
Hypothetically speaking, if the answer to #1 happens to between 30 and 40%, should that raise an alarm again on the preparation of our K-12 children? - if we don't increase 'supply' of good / well educated 12th graders, won't the enrollment at the college level drop off for the Americans?
What happens to these 40% foreign nationals that obtain advanced degrees ? Should we as Americans create an environment where these nationals can stay here in the US and contribute to the growth of our country?
One final point - as I traveled through the schools for the film, I often heard the seniors say "Oh, we have many entrance exams to prepare for" - a typical student like apoorva or rohit will prepare for : 1) their high school final exams, 2) entrance exams for IIT, 3) entrance exams for Medicine/Dental fields of study, 4) entrance exams for GRE (Graduate Record Exam), TOEFL (Test of English as Foreign Language). It was clear to me that higher education in US is still a sought after path for these 18-somethings.
I hope this sparks more discussion on the 'second' part of the crisis - at the College / Advanced education level.
Well, all of us 'behind' the film have been very (very!) active with a number of activities. I know a number of you will appreciate having the 'links' compiled in one place.
1. We had an Invitation Only private screening in Indianapolis on November 29th. More than 130 people from all walks of life - business, politics, schools, colleges, parents, investors, doctors - participated in the event. The highlight of the evening was the Q & A session with Neil (one of the 'stars' of the film).
2. Two Million Minutes and Ed in 08 have partnered to raise awareness of the education crisis in America.
The Strong American Schools’ ED in ’08 campaign is a nonpartisan
movement supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The
Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and calls on all presidential
candidates to improve America’s public schools.
As part of the partnership we organized a 'web-only' private screening to dozens of education bloggers and influencers' yesterday (December 11, 2007) . There were interesting questions raised during the web-screening.
There is one interesting blog post from Lynn - here is the link. Lynn raises a very interesting point about "US producing an impressive number of graduates in science...". I have added my commentary and observations in a separate post.
3. If you have been following the presidential campaigns, you probably know that the Republicans and Democrats have their final 'debate' (telecast on national cable channels) today (republicans) and tomorrow (democrats) in Iowa.
We have scheduled a screening of the Two Million Minutes at the Varsity Theatre in Des Moines, Iowa for tomorrow (Dec 13th, at 7:30pm). We expect a lively audience and post-screening Q & A.
To learn more on the Iowa Screening, click here. If you are going to be around Des Moines, be sure to stop by the Varsity Theatre. [I am told our executive producer is buying everyone drinks after the screening!]
Be sure to watch this blog for the post-party pictures from Bob!!!
What is wrong with this picture? It was presented at the recent OECD press conference Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). Yes it was one of many slides used to demonstrate how far America has fallen behind so many other countries in educational standards and attainment.
But this chart is missing just one little teeny tiny item. Give up?
It is missing nearly one half the world's population in its data - neither India (1.2 billion people) or China (1.3 billion people) are represented. Now that wouldn't be a problem except for the facts that:
China has 200,000,000 K-12 students
India has 211,000,000 K-12 students
Compared to America's 53 million students - who are already lagging dozens of other countries
India and China have higher educational standards than America - more of a Global Standard to our puny, pitiful State standards
And so the PISA report as depressing as it was...well it was only half as depressing as it could be because it simply ignored the two largest fastest growing countries in the world with the largest number of K-12 students and who are arguably the most diligent, hard working students, as a group, on the planet. I guess the OECD figured -- we don't have the data, so what me worry.
Our Silicon Valley screening was the best one to date. We played to a packed house at the Aquarius Theater in downtown Palo Alto.
This was easily our most highly educated, experienced, globally aware crowd, but like all those before them, including the Harvard Graduate schools, they failed the Global Education Awareness Quiz I have every audience take.
Even in Silicon Valley there is a low level of understanding of the Chinese and Indian K-12 education systems. Though they failed the test, they did score higher than any other audience.
It was great to have Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper attend the screening. Tim is one of the experts in Two Million Minutes and brings a vast knowledge of global capital flows, Indian and Chinese engineers and expertise on the US education system, having served on the California School Board.
The Q&A period was very engaging with sharp questions and comments from a well-informed audience and Tim and myself able to give our first hand accounts of what we have experienced in both India and China.
Next screening - Des Moines Iowa Dec 13th and into maw of the presidential political battle.
On the evening of November 16th, 2007, Senator Barack Obama took time out from a hectic campaigning schedule to visit with me and screen a portion of my film - Two Million Minutes.
Now a cynic will whine that the Senator would say good things about the film Ishtar if there was a campaign donation to be had, but given Senator Obama's fundraising prowess, not only did he not really need to see my film he probably could survive without my $2,300 contribution, made 6 months ago.
Senator Obama is the first of the presidential candidates to view Two Million Minutes and his questions and comments clearly showed he "gets it" -- that the Global Education Standards have passed America by and we ignore that condition at our economic peril.