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April 23, 2008

Comments

nj

this site is dedicated to all students living in American and missing the fun of indian Festival of Navratri.

We are for first time Web casting the event for all such students so just want to inform them.

site is

www. pankhida . com

aman

I THINK I SHOULD START TO WORK HARDER AND STUDY MORE NOW THAT I HAVE SEEN THE DIFFERENCE


A STRONG MATH AND SCIENCE FOUNDATION IS REALLY NECESSARY. THANK YOU SO MUCH MR. COMPTON

Aman

William Steding

After viewing the documentary Two Million Minutes and reviewing recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics, headlines like the one in The Dallas Morning News this week lamenting the fact that one in four Texas eighth graders failed the math portion of a state achievement test jump out at you – and make you anxious as a parent and an American about our stewardship of the next generation. Yet there’s something that bothers me – lurking in the back of my mind – that is ignored by these analysis and data points. A critical factor is being ignored, which I will call the lemniscus factor; named for the ribbon-like band of fibers that connects the spinal cord to the thalamus portion of the brain – also the shape of the sign for infinity.

Alexis de Tocqueville first identified this factor as something that distinguished early Americans. In 1840 he observed, “In the United States, there is no limit to the inventiveness of man to discover ways of increasing wealth and to satisfy the public need.” Indeed, Americans have a long history of failing their way to success. In 1970, when Apollo 13 faced its crisis during its lunar mission this lemniscus factor revealed itself for all the world to see. The filters that controlled the levels of carbon dioxide were failing in the capsule. The crewmembers quickly assembled a new filter out of spare parts: a sock, a plastic bag, and my favorite toolbox gotta-have: duct tape. As Gary Marcus writes in his new book, The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind, the cobbled together filter was a kluge: “a clumsy or inelegant – yet surprisingly effective – solution to a problem.” Americans are good at making kluges.

I don’t for a moment underestimate the importance of the message in Two Million Minutes. We should all be very concerned and work to improve the performance of our kid’s in math and science. But I think we must also be careful about readily accepting the orthodoxy of globalism that claims our kids are in head-to-head competition with kids in China and India for leadership of the world in the next thirty years. The U.S., China and India are on different points in their industrial maturation; the U.S. is in a post-industrial phase, while China and India are developing economies. As Richard Rosecrance points out in his book, The Rise of the Virtual State: Wealth and Power in the Coming Century, “The technological revolution of today and tomorrow is a revolution of intangibles: ideas, knowledge, technique, software, new creative products, and capital.” Some states will be “head” states and some “body.” Head states are service-oriented economies that provide design, research, marketing and financial services. Body states are executors: they deploy factors of production in optimal configurations. The students in Two Million Minutes from Carmel, Indiana; Shanghai, China; and Bangalore, India each have the opportunity to fill unique roles in their country’s economies – globalization is not a zero-sum game.

At the end of Two Million Minutes, another point in America’s favor is made when the narrator reveals where each of the students would be going to college. The Americans got their first picks – one on a full academic scholarship. Of the other four students from China and India, one got the school they wanted but not the program – the others settled for second and third choices. America may have its issues at the high school level, but its universities remain the best in the world, which may be why 600,000 foreign students come to America each year to attend college. Perhaps America is still the land of opportunity.

There is no question we need engineers, scientists and mathematicians in America. But we also need people who can think abstractly – to combine seemingly unrelated concepts into something new to solve complex problems. People who have the capacity to summon the lemniscus factor and produce the innovations that drive the world. I don’t think America has lost that – yet.

William Steding


Bob Compton Comments:

Just 5% of US college graduates are engineers. As I think about the economy of the 21st century, I wonder if 5% of our population can create enough new world-class products to support our economy in the face of enormous numbers of Indian and Chinese engineers who are daily improving their ability to innovate and invent.

The lowest priced car in the world? The TataNano designed by Indians. Tata also bought Jaguar from Ford as Ford fights to survive. Of course Ford had bought Jaguar from the British, as they fell off the pace in the global economy.

And the fastest selling car in GM's global lineup? The Buick Lacroix, designed by an all Chinese team in Beijing.

Maybe you are right, perhaps we just need creative minds, not minds steeped in math and science. I just sense from doing business in these two countries and hiring their college graduates, that India and China are going to have lots of engineers who also can summon the lemniscus factor.

Lorraine Goyette

My students (many secondary teachers working in challenging urban districts) viewed the DVD yesterday and it stimulated quite a discussion.

One question surfaced that I was not able to adequately answer, despite my interest in the influence of business involvement in educational reform since the eighties (after publication of A Nation at Risk).

If educators, students, and their communities do change in ways that reflect new global economic challenges...

...will highly educated American students be able to compete with their counterparts in Asia (or Africa or Latin America) in terms of salary?

One student cited the instance of her mother's company, which recently outsourced skilled positions to India.

Related questions include:

For which jobs could high schools prepare students--that would be "here" to reward higher levels of commitment and effort?

(There may be a quiet crisis in education; if that's true, a cause might be a crisis in our own confidence that we can intelligently prepare for a future that seems up for grabs.)

Could we hear from business leadership about...

...their commitment to providing employment for American graduates and workers?

...exactly what skills and knowledge will be required of our students and why?

...the market for those with skills in the areas of languages, social sciences, the arts, or physical education?

Momindant

If the facilities are "brilliant," then it must not be a question of money, right? We don't need to throw more dollars at education. We need to change our priorities for those dollars, and our expectations for our students.

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