“The World is Flat” Criticism

Apparently I’m not the only person who doesn’t like Thomas Friedman’s prose style. I don’t wholly agree with the review, but it’s kind of a funny read nontheless. Personally, I find his style overly repetitive with several of the anecdotes not amounting to much, they seem more like fairly common business magazine fare. There are some good points to the book. I found the couple of pages where he discusses and quotes Karl Marx’s prescient description of globalization in The Communist Manifesto particularly interesting.

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  • Don

    To whom our future may concern:

    We are losing a global race to lead in science-based endeavors. I would like to share what I have experienced as a father, director of engineering, and a global leader. Every level of the American culture needs to stop our current momentum of complacency and accelerate in a direction of scientific excellence.

    As father, I bear the burden to raise my children well. However, I have been complacent during my first decade as a parent. My children don’t have a passion or a hunger to learn, let alone pursue excellence in science. They have soft, fulfilled lives. They have no significant want. I have erred in stirring the desire to excel. I fear that I am not alone.

    As a director of engineering at a $4 billion privately held U.S. company, I have seen broader ramifications of complacency in Wisconsin and the United States. My department and others like it have had open engineering positions for 2 years. In some cases this may be a concern with qualifications. However, the bulk of the concern lies with the amount of applicants. We may go a month without a single application. We are recruiting locally and nationally. Overall, we’ve found a lack of experienced engineers, engineers with leadership ability, and engineers with innovative aptitude.

    As a global leader in my company, I have been exposed to our engineering outsourcing and manufacturing offshoring efforts. In a quest to seek talent that is unavailable, I have outsourced engineering content with excellent results. The output is less expensive, quickly produced, and of equal or better quality. I have seen products from our offshoring efforts that are less expensive, produced in large quantities, and have a lower warranty rate than our domestic product. I hunger for a motivation to stop these initiatives, but none are in sight.

    My real world experience has recently been summarized in Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat. This book should be listed as professional development for parents, teachers, principals, and board members throughout our school systems. Every level of our government should read this work as they direct our path for the future.

    I look forward to learning what your plans are for our children’s future and for our country’s future. Let’s invest in our innovative capital.

  • Anonymous

    While I agree with your take-away from Friedman’s book as an American, I urge you to be careful with the assessment of your children. I am a 32 year old, hard-working professional who will likely continue to succeed- at least financially- in a ever flattening world, but my own father would likely have said the same thing about me that you say about your 10 year old/s. I remember well when my father began to realize he’d been too “soft” and began to tighten the reigns. But he applied the logic of his own pre-baby-boomer, Sputnik era uprearing to me requiring that I take college courses that would afford me an education that would assure me a “lifestyle to which I’d grown accustomed to living.” When my father openly questioned his own parenting to date and expressed concern regarding the choices I was making at the time, it caused me to second-guess my pursuits and think more about what he wanted for me- afterall he was paying for it and he was older and more experienced than me. A sense of filial obligation set me trying to change horses in mid-stream. My grades plummeted as did my self-confidence. I wondered if all pursuits prior to his concern with his own parental complacency were worthless. What he did not know was, that despite majoring in ENGLISH despite him, I could manipulate the shape of graphs and exponential curves, I could graph it on my TI-85, I could run the sequences in Excel, I knew what the exponent did, y=mx+b was hardwired into my brain as was f(x)=x^2, as well as the fact that the first derivative was 2x. The world is changing quickly. And our youth may know more than we think they do. Instead of blaming himself for failinig as a parent- which made me feel like a failure as a son and set me back several years- I wish he’d been impressed with what I did know. In retrospect, he was clearly the misinformed one. Now some gentle nudging here and there may have been in order, but molecular biology has done little to advance my well-being, while fiction-writing, my own elective, helped me to learn about character development, interpersonal relationships, and other liberal arts concepts that I apply daily in the expansion of my financial planning business. I am a people person. I know my limits. I know my strengths. I may one day outsource to India for back-office solutions, but no one in Bangalore can interfere with the fierce loyalty of my clients because they can’t make green eye contact with those who sit comfortably across the table from me every day. This was my take-away from Friedman’s book. No doubt, we need a wake-up call in America in math and science. We need to encourage our youth to tackle these sterile disciplines, but maybe the best fighter pilots of the 21st century will have been the best x-box manipulators sitting in front of the TV at age 10. Maybe the college kids out fraternizing built the strongest networks to exploit in adulthood. Maybe the guy who could write the best “thank you note” won the business that the inarticulate brainiac could never express. Maybe the tax-planner who understood why his industry lobbied for a certain change to the tax code passes the CPA exam, while the one who memorized the numbers found himself with a head full of useless, outdated knowledge. As important as actually learning what happens to the oxygen molecule in the Crebes Cycle is learning that Darwin sailed on the HMS Beagle and that Carrolus Linneaus invented bi-nomenclature. Afterall, King Philip Came Over From Gaul Saturday. And all of Gaul is divided into three parts. Bono was Time’s man of the year, but the first U2 was a spy plane. My dad never had a clue I knew any of this, nor that it would help me understand concepts, understand that the world changes constantly, that eveything is interdependent, that Ghandi feared no man, and that the South Sea Trading Company went as bust as Tulip Bulbs. In the words of famed scientist Sir Isaac Newton, I have larned to predict the position of the celestial bodies, but I can not predict the behavior of man in capital markets.

  • Matt

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