Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Friedman Nails It - Again

Thomas Friedman is one of my favorite columnists. His columns continue to shed new light on the issues he brought up in his groundbreaking book "The World Is Flat". (It is now one of the required reading books for students of International Economics course at local Clark College.) In his most recent op-ed article, published in the New York Times, he sheds new light on how the lack of progress in K-12 education has hurt the US economy.

Headlined "Swimming Without a Suit", it has some shocking numbers. One of the estimates of the cost of poor showing in our K-12 system is summed up here: "If America had closed the international achievement gap between 1983 and 1998 and had raised its performance to the level of such nations as Finland and South Korea, United States G.D.P. in 2008 would have been between $1.3 trillion and $2.3 trillion higher." In percentage terms, the GDP would have been roughly 10 to 18 percent higher. Which in turn would have meant we did not have to have the recession we are going through now, because the economy would still be growing, instead of shrinking.

If there is a bright spot, the article mentions that more and more top Ivy league graduates are signing up for "Teach For America", an organization that provides college scholarships in exchange for two years of teaching in inner city schools. It has produced produced such distinguished alumni as Michelle Rhee, the chancellor of Washington DC schools. For many years, they have attracted top graduates from various fields, with an average college GPA above 3.5. Apparently their applications are up 40 percent this year, and most of them are graduates of top schools such as Yale, Princeton, and Harvard.

One small problem for those living in the Pacific Northwest. Teach For America does not operate here. Wonder why?

Thanks to Charles Hoff for sending me the link.

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