Friday, January 12, 2007

Unlikely Heroes

I have been reading The World Is Flat the last few days. Of the many sound bites that pepper the book, the one that will stay with me is on page 256 where Friedman talks about how young people in China hang from the rafters and scalp tickets just to hear Bill Gates speak. He says "In China today, Bill Gates is Britney Spears. In America today, Britney Spears is Britney Spears - and that is our problem"

Elsewhere he talks about how at the height of the cold war, most average 11 year olds in America dreamt of being an engineer. Today kids that age are far less likely to see engineering as a career choice. He talks about the role of parenting in enabling future generations to take on the world flattening forces of globalization - about how they need to wean kids from the many distractions of Game Boys, TV, iPods and the like and get them to work hard.

Being that there is no contest against Sputniks or a space race to be won, rallying the masses around the cause of challenged national pride is that much harder. Maybe the movement should be at the grass roots level, at dinner tables where parents do their bit to make celebrities out of Sergey Brin, Vinod Dham and Bill Gates instead of Britney Spears.

From my vantage point in American Hicksville, where J is the only non-white person in her kindergarten class, I can tell that the current dinner table discourse in the average all American family is not nearly as sophisticated. It makes Dylan tell J "I don't play with brown skinned people". When she told me, I wondered for a minute if I had time traveled to the 60s or even earlier - I thought the sentiment was rather quaint in this day and age. I had to stop laughing before I could even begin to explain anything to J.

Clearly, that family has not heard about quiet crisis in America that Friedman is talking about.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If you were awed by Friedman's Flat, please consider reading
The worlkd is Flat?
watch the overview...