In “What, Me Worry?”, Tom Friedman holds forth, as he so often does, on a speech Bill Gates gave on the antiquated way we educate our high school students. Gates warns that the future belongs not to those countries rich in natural resources but rather to those who “mine” their populace’s intellectual power. China and India will soon propel many more of their students ahead of ours, and with the flattening of the globe, Tom’s latest book’s thesis, these students will no longer have to come to the US. Thus the brain drain will be from within and without.
“One of America’s most important entrepreneurs recently gave a remarkable speech at a summit meeting of our nation’s governors. Bill Gates minced no words. “American high schools are obsolete,” he told the governors. “By obsolete, I don’t just mean that our high schools are broken, flawed and underfunded. … By obsolete, I mean that our high schools – even when they are working exactly as designed – cannot teach our kids what they need to know today.
“Training the work force of tomorrow with the high schools of today is like trying to teach kids about today’s computers on a 50-year-old mainframe. … Our high schools were designed 50 years ago to meet the needs of another age. Until we design them to meet the needs of the 21st century, we will keep limiting – even ruining – the lives of millions of Americans every year.”
Let me translate Mr. Gates’s words: “If we don’t fix American education, I will not be able to hire your kids.” I consider that, well, kind of important. Alas, the media squeezed a few mentions of it between breaks in the Michael Jackson trial. But neither Tom DeLay nor Bill Frist called a late-night session of Congress – or even a daytime one – to discuss what Mr. Gates was saying. They were too busy pandering to those Americans who don’t even believe in evolution…”