Public Schools Should Teach Gumption

Friedman gets his knuckles rapped for slamming American education

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Globalization-loving New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman took aim at U.S. education in his column Wednesday, blaming "our struggling public schools" for turning out a workforce that is content with being just average. The problem? Too many people are hoping to wait out the recession for jobs to come to them on a silver platter. The solution? "Those with the imagination to make themselves untouchables--to invent smarter ways to do old jobs, energy-saving ways to provide new services, new ways to attract old customers or new ways to combine existing technologies--will thrive."

We not only need a higher percentage of our kids graduating from high school and college -- more education -- but we need more of them with the right education.... So our schools have a doubly hard task now -- not just improving reading, writing and arithmetic but entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity.

Atlantic correspondent Ellen Ruppel Shell doesn't buy it. She repays Friedman's finger-wagging with interest, first taking a red pen to his rhetorical style: "As is his custom he begins with an anecdote, a supposedly chance encounter with a one time PepsiCo and Kraft Europe executive now laboring in the stony fields of international investment." Then she attacks his argument for being out of touch with the real problems facing schools:

Last time I looked, schools were having a hard enough time teaching kids the basics--now they are expected to "teach" creativity and entrepreneurship? One wonders how Mr. Friedman would have managed as an independent entrepreneur without the power of the Times to back him. But one wonders even more about the reasoning of a commenter who argues that the average American doesn't have a chance in this new global economy, and that only the extraordinary deserve a place in his brave new world.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.