A-man Is Back, And Still Goes To Eleven
SEOTechGuy Warns You of the Tyranny of Google Search
dagblog Wears Your Grandpa's Clothes/It Looks Incredible
I know, I can't quit Thomas Friedman. But when a below average writer achieves fame and fortune while so many greater talents deal in obscurity, it's annoying. Particularly when the below average writer makes arguments like "Average Is Over," where he accuses American politicians and citizens of not being up to the task of global competition.
Friedman likes to start with generalizations and then drill down to some person or group of people presenting a solution that he likes. Today it's a group called "America Achieves," which is partnering with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to make an online resource so that parents can compare the performance of their kid's school not just to the school in the district next door but to schools in Finland and Singapore. Then, if their students aren't achieving at the level of students elsewhere in the world, Friedman suggests that parents can call administrators and teachers to demand an explanation.
This just seems like the stupidest conversation a parent can have with a principal. Oh, it sounds reasonable. But what, exactly, do you think would come of it. If your kid is having trouble reading or doing math, you're probably better off looking for resources in and outside of the school that can help than you are having a barely informed discussion that bridges disparate cultures, languages and histories. I remember Malcolm Gladwell trying to write a story about why Chinese people are good at math and coming up with the theory that it's because of the rice paddies, which demand complex math skills to tend. Maybe. Maybe not. In any event, an impractical answer for a school district in a Utah desert.
Now, to Friedman's generalizations. Our politicians are local, he says, but are business people are not. CEOs, and by this he must mean only big company CEOs, have no national loyalties, he says. He doesn't seem to think that this is a problem, just a fact of life.
I think just accepting that is a problem. After all, these companies, multinational though they may be in their manufacturing, do tend to derive the majority of their revenues from the U.S. The U.S. is the largest consumer and corporate market in the world despite the declinist stuff that's so popular these days. And, of course, there would be no globalization and no reliable global supply chains without the U.S. military. These people are, to the extent they have torn loyalties (Friedman's characterization) being disloyal to the country that protects them. Maybe next time that a U.S. multinational has assets appropriated in some part of the world we should tell them to appeal to their low labor cost partners in Vietnam or China for help. Maybe the only way to make the point to people like this is to indulge their delusions of "global citizenship."
Finally, Friedman gives short shrift to the achievements of America's work force. How do we measure "better than average" if not in terms of rising productivity? That's how America's workers responded to the challenges of globalization -- more output per hour worked. It was not rewarded. So why is Friedman asking for more of the same?