Friday, January 18, 2013

A moon shot (thoughts from 2005)

Comments by Thomas Friedman
Presented here as an educational exercise

Why are people in India taking jobs from people in the USA?  
What could inspire students to study harder?  What is the proposed “Double Moon Shot?” 

The following is a transcription of comments by NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman from an interview with Tim Russert, April 2005 
Friedman:      A certain Democratic presidential hopeful named John Kerry came out with a blast against executives who outsource, calling them Benedict Arnold CEOs.  So I decided to go to Bangalore, India, the capital of outsourcing.
      While I had been sleeping, covering the 9/11 story, I had missed the creation of a global flat economic platform where anyone can plug and play. That's why I call the book 
The World Is Flat. 
Russert:  You were told that the world is a level playing field, and Americans are not ready for it. 
Friedman: Nandan Nilekani, the head of Infosys, told me, "The global playing field is being leveled, and you Americans are not ready. You are best when you are challenged, and you are being challenged.”
If we don't get our own population up to speed when this tide rises, it's going to wash over us.
Russert:  What sort of challenge is outsourcing? 
Friedman: The first thing to understand is get the word OUTSOURCING out of your mind. Think of SOURCING. When the world is flat, you can source the work to the most efficient person in the world, either in India or North Dakota or San Francisco.
     Not everything is going to be outsourced. But there are more and more jobs that can fit into this category.
     Many jobs are outsourced to the past. The ticket agent at some airports has been replaced with an automatic ticket machine and that job has been outsourced to the past. The cameramen in the TV studio could be replaced by a robot camera.
     What's really scary is that more and more jobs at the high end will be outsourced to India and they won't be outsourced because of the wage difference.  We're not producing enough cutting-edge talented people to fill these jobs in the US. That's the secret of outsourcing. Executives don't want to say this out loud. When they outsource a job, they don't just get a cheaper employee, they get a big boost in productivity. That's a very bad thing.
Russert: Executives will say we get a highly skilled, highly motivated, highly disciplined English-speaking work force in India or Ireland and why shouldn't we go there? In the inner cities in the US, every other child doesn't graduate from high school. 
Friedman: Our leading industrial innovator, a guy named Bill Gates, told us that the    high school education in America is obsolete. You probably didn't hear that, it might have slipped in between Terry Schiavo and Michael Jackson. This is something we should be talking about.
Bill Gates said that this country is not producing enough skilled young people to fill the job vacancies. This is worthy of a national discussion. We need to focus on making more Americans employable and able to be educated for a flat world.
Russert: What is the ambition gap? 
Friedman: The ambition gap is what you alluded to, Tim. There's one entitlement that we have to get rid of: We are NOT entitled to any job we want. I'm sorry to say this, there is no such thing as an American job. Finish your homework because people in India are working for your job. We have to up the ambition level.
Young people are waiting for inspiration. Young women are not being inspired to go into science. There is such an analog to the moon shot waiting for our president to seize. A great national project: We need young people to be reenergized about going into science and engineering. It's the moon shot of our generation. It's to make America energy independent. Imagine if our president said, “This is going to be our national goal. I want every young person to go into math and science and make their contribution for hybrid vehicles and alternative energies.” You could energize a whole generation. George Bush could do it. It would be his Richard Nixon to China.
Is there anything more important than delinking the connection to oil and Saudi Arabia, which gives money to madrasas, the religious schools? Maybe in a real world, we can't be totally energy independent. But we can reduce our dependence on oil.

I would be happy if the President would read the book. I would love nothing more than to see the President of the United States taking up the agenda of
making America energy independent and its young people economically skilled, empowered and enabled. We don't have three-and-a-half years to wait to maybe get a President who will pick up this agenda.  I would love to be George Bush's biggest booster on an agenda to make America strong in a flat world. 
(This interview appeared on the CNBC cable television network.  This flyer is distributed to encourage students to learn more about outsourcing.  
Where is Bangalore?
Activities:  Please share this page with a teacher and a student.  Ask the teacher, “Do you mention India in your classes?” Ask the student, “Have you written to the President to ask for a Moon Shot effort?” and “What part of your teacher’s job can be outsourced?  10%?  20%?” 
What can you do to prepare for an innovative world? 
1. Read books by Daniel Pink. Free Agent Nation and A Whole New Mind describe how we can all become designers and innovators, not just producers and managers. (an innovative school)
2. Participate in the discussion about 
“what happens in the new economy?”                                         
Send your answers to these questions:       

a. What does a worker in a U.S. car factory do if the factory cuts costs by cutting jobs?  Can a factory worker become an owner of a bed-and-breakfast inn?  Sell real estate?  Teach?
b. What jobs are currently in demand?
c. What jobs will be in demand in the future?
d. What skills do those jobs require?  

e. How can you help retrain an out-of-work factory worker?  (Everyone can teach something – what skill do you know?) 

Associated Web sites: Learn about “Wet Math” and learning styles BuildingInternationalBridges.orgLearn a new language via email and teach an international student about your culture. You are invited to suggest topics that will help students move ahead in the Flat World.
Democracy Bonds ..  Winning the hearts and minds of people who are in zones of conflict.  Take the “Flat Challenge” (10 questions). 

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