Monday, May 02, 2005

On Thomas Friedman on Bill Gates

One person took issue with Friedman's attack on Bush, which he thought was irrelevant to the issue:

"I completely agree with Gates and this author, except where he blames Bush for the situation. I think he could've made his point without slamming Bush for it. I hate No Child Left Behind as much as the next guy, but it's the Democrats who are pushing so hard to fund public schools, the epitome of the obsolete system, rather than allowing parents to fund the more challenging and competitive private schools. I could just as easily rewrite his article blaming 3 decades of Democrat insistence upon pumping cash into this horribly obsolete system, and I would be just as justified as he is for blaming bush now, if not more so, I think."

Another thinks the conservative and liberal approaches both fail:

To show how out-of-touch I am with America, my first response was "so what?" It isn't that I don't care about this (to be honest, I don't very much) as much as it is that I don't get it at all. Why is it a problem that "'our high schools - even when they are working exactly as designed - cannot teach our kids what they need to know today'?" I am not even sure I understand what it is, exactly, that anybody needs to know "today" as opposed to anyother time in the context of high school curriculum. It is in these situations that I see clearest that I am, in many ways, a first class conservative.

In most situations, my allies are "liberals" because theyprovide the most salient (if sometimes strange and usually context- andimplication-free) critiques of "conservatives," which is what we now call people who are really war-mongering, gun-toting, individualist radicals sent to destroy the whole world. Usually, I think "liberals" get the problem, if not the solution. Every now and then, however, I read something by a "big media liberal" (I am not sure Friedman fits in that category, but I will go with it) and think, "Wow, one of us really misses the point of it all." Here is a case where I think that Friedman's assessment of W (and of Gates for that matter) is right on even though the crux of Gates's point is totally lost. Gates says, "'Training the work force of tomorrow with the high schools of today is like trying to teach kids about today's computers on a50-year-old mainframe.'" It seems to have totally escaped Friedman that, possibly, training anyone to do anything even remotely related to the workforce is a problematic - even disastrous goal in the context of primary and secondary education. And I just don't get it, especially in light of the fact that he figured out Gates's game ("'If we don't fix American education, I will not be able to hire your kids.'"). Either way, when I read articles like this, I begin to see that my ability to rely on "liberals" to counter "conservatives" is only temporary. Sooner or later, I am going to have to provide a conservative critique of "conservatives" and "liberals" alike."

A third spurns things:

"A while back there were some /. articles that talked about how the elderly in Korea were so far behind the times with the youth. The odd thing was that the elderly were using email and IM, and the youth were text messaging. What sort of culture must they have where their elderly can understand and accept technology that is only decades (or less) old? I know electronics must be cheap there, but how did they come to depend on it so much? In Japan you can get a 100Mbps fiber-optic internet connection in your home for the equivalent of $30/mo. I pay that much for 4Mbit (theoretical max-- I've not seen anything above 3)

Regarding schools: As soon as I got into college classes, I spurned my HS education. I was learning useful and interesting things, and all that had changed was the date. Realistically, though, the only way I could have learned the 'good' stuff was if I had a teacher with the foresight and intelligence to realize what was worthwhile (and the power to change the curriculum). Instead I got taught a useless programming language and *no* theory. IMHO, the solution is nigh-impossible. America is just too large to swing anything that has 'innovation' in the title. 19in LCDs on every lab computer won't make anyone smarter.

Talent in the workforce? Sure, we can get it. Some companies do a good job of it-- google, for one. The real impediment to that (to me, anyway) is the preponderance of documents and briefs and focus groups and taskings and enterprise IT all-in-one marketing scheme administrators who don't have the gift of free thought. I freaking hate documentation. Don't get me started."


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