"Finish Your Homework"

Just read an interview Wired did with Thomas Friedman, columnist for the New York Times and author of The World Is Flat. The book comments on the ready accessibility of supply chains globally, and the effects of that interconnectedness on foreign policy, prosperity, and your job security.

The statement that stimulated me to post a link to the interview was Friedman's answer to Wired's question, "[W]hat should we be doing?...what advice should we give our kids?":
When I was growing up, my parents told me, "Finish your dinner. People in China and India are starving." I tell my daughters, "Finish your homework. People in India and China are starving for your job."

He continues in this vein in his column of May 13, "Where Have You Gone, Joe DiMaggio?" wherein he cites results of a recent international computer programming competition. The University of Illinois, the US's top-ranked performer in the competition, tied for 17th, the lowest rank in the 29-year history of the competition. (For your interest, the top-performing Canadian school was the University of Waterloo, achieving a fourth place ranking).

I have no doubt that Friedman's thesis has much truth. The threat to the domestic workforce posed by developing nations had been largely limited to manufacturing. At the start of the Information Age, the innovators and the workforce behind them came out of the US: IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Texas Instruments, etc. And the plum white collar sectors--financial services, accounting, business management--were firmly rooted on American soil.

For more than a decade now, jobs in all these sectors have been under continuing and accelerating threat from abroad. If the knowledge capital of the emerging megapowers--India and China--is not just cheaper, but also more skilled, what chance does our labor force have? How can it compete against a younger, talented, more recently trained and upwardly mobile horde of hundreds of millions?

So, to my four boys I'll say: Finish your homework, boys. There are children in India and China who've already finished theirs.

1 comment:

apple said...

and how are those lovely boys doing?