Friday, November 5, 2010

Sense of Urgency

While I believe Kentucky has made significant progress in education and the economy over the last 20 years, there is much work to do. As I travel across the Commonwealth, I feel that there is not a strong enough sense of urgency about the need to improve our economy and education. See if the following factoids catch your attention.

  • Thirty years ago, ten percent of California’s general fund went to higher education and three percent to prisons. Today, nearly eleven percent goes to prisons and eight percent to higher education.
  • The United States now ranks 22nd among the world’s nations in the density of broadband Internet penetration and 72nd in the density of mobile telephony subscriptions.
    The World Economic Forum ranks the United States 48th in quality of mathematics and science education.
  • Federal funding of research in the physical sciences as a fraction of gross domestic product fell by 54 percent in the 25 years after 1970. The decline in engineering funding was 51 percent.
  • In the 2009 rankings of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, the U.S. was in sixth place in global innovation-based competitiveness, but ranked 40th in the rate of change over the past decade.

These factoids come from a recent report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm, Revisited: Rapidly Approaching Category 5. This report is published by the National Academies Press and is available for download here. Check out the brief summary below. This is an essential read for policy makers and interested parents.

The original Gathering Storm competitiveness report focuses on the ability of America and Americans to compete for jobs in the evolving global economy. The possession of quality jobs is the foundation of a high quality life for the nation’s citizenry. The report paints a daunting outlook for America if it were to continue on the perilous path it has been following in recent decades with regard to sustained competitiveness.

The purpose of the present report is to assess changes in America’s competitive posture in the five years that have elapsed since the Gathering Storm report was initially published and to assess the status of implementation of the National Academies’ recommendations.

In the face of so many daunting near-term challenges, U.S. government and industry are letting the crucial strategic issues of U.S. competitiveness slip below the surface. Five years ago, the National Academies prepared Rising Above the Gathering Storm, a book that cautioned: "Without a renewed effort to bolster the foundations of our competitiveness, we can expect to lose our privileged position." Since that time, we find ourselves in a country where much has changed--and a great deal has not changed.

Rising Above the Gathering Storm, Revisited is a wake-up call. To reverse the foreboding outlook will require a sustained commitment by both individual citizens and government officials--at all levels. This book, together with the original Gathering Storm volume, provides the roadmap to meet that goal. While this book is essential for policy makers, anyone concerned with the future of innovation, competitiveness, and the standard of living in the United States will find this book an ideal tool for engaging their government representatives, peers, and community about this momentous issue.

1 comment:

  1. Dr. Holliday,

    Thank you for alerting me to "Rising Above the Gathering Storm, Revisited: Rapidly Approaching Category 5." The data there does indeed provide a clear warning that US education is falling behind.

    "Rising Above" relied on "The Global Competitiveness Report 2009-2010" from the World Economic Forum for one of the statistics you cited above. That second report has more cautionary information concerning the relative position of US education in the overall world order.

    For example, the Competitiveness report's extensive survey of the world's leading business executives ranks the US educational system only at 22nd place out of 133 world "economies" (mostly countries, but a few special groupings like Taiwan are included). The report indicates this puts the US at a competitive disadvantage.

    For more: