Online Study Guide: The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman|
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ONLINE BOOK SUMMARY FOR THE WORLD IS FLAT
The first dirty little secret is “The Numbers Gap.” The numbers gap refers
to the declining number of American students completing degrees in science
and math fields. This is particularly troublesome considering the increasing
numbers of students around the world who are receiving these degrees,
and the speed at which jobs are being created requiring these degrees
in the increasingly flat world. For example, in 2003 2.8 million science
and engineering degrees (equivalent to an American bachelor’s degree)
were issued worldwide: 1.2 million in Asia, 830,000 in Europe, and 400,000
in the United States. Meanwhile, in the U.S. the number of jobs that require
these degrees is growing at about 5% a year, while the rest of the labor
force is growing at about 1%. Friedman notes that many of the students
receiving engineering degrees in American universities are probably not
Americans and will take the knowledge they gain back to their own countries.
Moreover, even if Chinese or Indian universities are not as good as American
universities there are many, many more people in these countries dedicated
to learning math and science than there are in the United States.
The second dirty little secret is “The Education Gap at the Top.” Friedman
explains the numbers gap via the education gap: that is, we are not interesting
enough American students in advanced math, science, and engineering. Friedman
explores a variety of reasons for the decline of students seeking these
advanced degrees, including the lack of interest in the basic math and
science courses as well as a general decline in work ethic. Friedman observes
that students’ proficiency has fallen in reading and writing as well as
in math and science, which could be connected to the rising number of
young Americans watching television and surfing the Internet.
The third dirty little secret is “The Ambition Gap.” Friedman says that CEOs
would only share this secret with him in a whisper: when low-prestige,
low-paying jobs are sent abroad they become high-paying (though still
cheaper than the American rates) and high-prestige jobs. As a result,
the company pays 75% less in salaries and receives 100% more in productivity.
The fourth dirty little secret is “The Education Gap at the Bottom.” This
gap refers to the inequality of American public schools. Friedman notes
how the American public school system, as we know it today, was organized
in the first third of the last century. Unlike other nations, which organize
their public schools at the national or state level, American public schools
are organized by local school boards. This means that wealthy people could
organize into self-taxing districts and tax themselves a small portion
of their salaries and still produce a high per capita, per student school
budget. The opposite was true for poorer districts. Thus the wealthy districts
attract the best teachers, principals, and curriculum planners, while
the poorer districts must settle for what is left over.
This situation was exacerbated following World War II when the government
began subsidizing home mortgages and highway development--aiding white
families in fleeing the city and abetting de facto segregation. In the
flat world this situation is more dismal. Previously, Americans, particularly
in the cities, did not have much difficulty finding jobs that required
little knowledge. Now, as manufacturing jobs are shipped overseas, students
that have been pushed through the public education system have less of
a chance for success.
The fifth dirty little secret is “The Funding Gap.” Simply put, the funding
gap refers to the decreasing amount of funding Congress provides for research
in the physical and mathematical sciences as well as engineering. Funding,
as a share of the GDP, declined by 37% between 1970 and 2004.
The sixth dirty little secret is “The Infrastructure Gap.” The infrastructure
gap refers to Americans’ access to broadband, which lags significantly
behind the rest of the industrialized world. Since George W. Bush became
President, the United States has fallen from 4th to 16th in the global
rankings of broadband Internet usage. Friedman argues that this ranking
is a problem because broadband and information technologies are critical
to advancing productivity and innovation in every sector of the economy.
In chapter 9, “This is not a Test,” Friedman outlines the five action areas
of compassionate flatism, which is what he believes it means to be progressive
in a flat world. The goal of compassionate flatism is to reconfigure the
old welfare state to give Americans the outlook, education, skills, and
safety nets they will need to compete against other individuals in the
The first action area is leadership. Friedman believes American politicians
must get serious about the flattening of the world. He argues that politicians
must be able and willing to inspire and explain, not to actively encourage
stupidity among their constituents. He concludes this section by asserting
that George W. Bush could secure his legacy if he made energy independence
a serious goal.
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. 09 May 2017