Sunday, October 25, 2009

Shamelessly Flogging Public Education

Thomas Friedman's latest op-ed piece called The New Untouchables seems synchronized to reinforce the disinformation being propagated nationwide by Business and Industry Associations across the country.

Friedman's thesis is summarized by someone he quotes;
“Our education failure is the largest contributing factor to the decline of the American worker’s global competitiveness, particularly at the middle and bottom ranges,” argued Martin, a former global executive with PepsiCo and Kraft Europe and now an international investor.

Along the way Friedman intimates that there's some truth in the idea that "our struggling public schools — was actually a critical, but unspoken, reason for the Great Recession."

And if that weren't enough, Friedman claims;
"A Washington lawyer friend recently told me about layoffs at his firm. I asked him who was getting axed. He said it was interesting: lawyers who were used to just showing up and having work handed to them were the first to go because with the bursting of the credit bubble, that flow of work just isn’t there. But those who have the ability to imagine new services, new opportunities and new ways to recruit work were being retained. They are the new untouchables.

That is the key to understanding our full education challenge today. Those who are waiting for this recession to end so someone can again hand them work could have a long wait. Those with the imagination to make themselves untouchables — to invent smarter ways to do old jobs, energy-saving ways to provide new services, new ways to attract old customers or new ways to combine existing technologies — will thrive. Therefore, we not only need a higher percentage of our kids graduating from high school and college — more education — but we need more of them with the right education."

Friedman's intellectual sin is in his editorial hypocrisy and absence of even the effort to present proof for his assertions. In lecturing his readers about the virtues of imagination and critical thinking, and the dangers of just showing up, Friedman exercises no critical examination of the tired and dreary lies about education that are lorem ipsum filler for such knee-jerk and pedestrian "observations".

What this column represents is a false entanglement of many complex and nuanced social issues, all of which are claimed to the causal effect of [American public] education. If he were a student, his paper would fail based on faulty logic. Let's examine his ideas.

First, is education responsible for the "the decline of the American worker’s global competitiveness". Friedman gleefully assumes so. He ignores cheap labor, international job piracy, indiscriminate business practices in foreign labor markets, child, slave, and prison labor, totalitarian working conditions, subsistence living conditions, ecological and social malfeasance, and so on. None of that seems to matter to Friedman.

Friedman's concept of the New Untouchable is a blend of Ayn Rand super-global-person and self-sufficient, perpetually sustaining futurist.

Yet everyone with a brain and an ounce of real world work experience knows that TF's claim that the people "who have the ability to imagine new services, new opportunities and new ways to recruit work were being retained" is wholesale fiction. The people being retained are often refereed to as sheeple - docile, compliant, safe players clinging to safe jobs by their fingernails - the go-along gang.

The finest reflection of what corporation value in workers is already codified and ruthlessly enforced as public school curricula. No Child Left Behind has everything to do with absolute compliance of students, teachers, administrators, and parents. Deviate or perish.

Go to any corporate function where the authority figures ask for questions about policy, goals, or corporate objectives. The only hands raised are to ask the Pollyanna questions.

"Is it okay if we jump higher than you ask?"

Will the cafeteria be open for those of us who work weekends?

It is not the educated, intelligent, or creative who are usually retained - it is the clever, devious, ingrown, and ruthless who do. Confusing one for the other is an disservice to the former and undeserved by the latter.

Friedman's untouchables don't exist except as a romantic, fictional entity who, if they existed, would be first fired, last hired, and marginalized. Not even IBM promotes the concept of "Think" anymore.

And Friedman libels those who are unemployed by characterizing the victims of down-sizing and economic deflation as worthless slackers waiting for work to be handed to them.

Education is not responsible for the shared greed, duplicity, and brazen criminal behavior that saturates the corporate world today. It is just an easy target. like a magician redirecting the attention of the audience, Friedman and his cohorts want America to punish the innocent yet again while the lying thieves make a back-door escape scot-free.


Tony Waters said...

Hi Frank:
This is nicely written and argued.

Tony Waters

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