Sunday, September 12, 2010

Tom Friedman Gets it (Almost) Right

If you haven't read Tom Friedman's Op-Ed piece in today's Times, do yourself a favor and read it. He takes a piece about ed reform written by Robert Samuelson and extrapolates it to explain the general decline in America. Other than the fact that Friedman seems to imply we may need a longer school day or year, he's pretty much on target.

Then do yourself a favor and read Samuelson's original piece in the Washington Post. Although he is an economist, Samuelson take on school reform and the reasons it has failed. Here's a quote from the article that may pique your interest:

The larger cause of failure is almost unmentionable: shrunken student motivation. Students, after all, have to do the work. If they aren't motivated, even capable teachers may fail.

Definitely worth a read.

4 comments:

reality-based educator said...

Friedman is part of the larger erosion of American values he writes about in today's column.

See the following Charlie Rose tape for why Friedman supported the Iraq war:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HOF6ZeUvgXs

How's that for a good reason to go to war?

Also, Friedman promotes environmentalism while living in a 114,000 square foot house:

http://wonkette.com/413811/this-is-literally-thomas-friedmans-house

And let's not forget that as he takes Wall Street to task for the economic collapse, his wife owns General Growth Properties, the largest mall owner in the country, that gamed the system by expanding beyond all economic sense, pocketed the money they took from the loans, then declared bankruptcy in one of the largest commercial real estate failures in U.S. history.

His own wife's business dealings are exactly the "values breakdown — a national epidemic of get-rich-quickism and something-for-nothingism" he says he deplores in is column today.

As for criticizing his fellow Baby Boomers for refusing to find solutions that take sacrifice, how about he takes the initiative and moves out of his 114,000 sq foot mansion into a smaller, say, 70,000 sq foot mansion?

http://dealbook.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/04/16/general-growth-properties-files-for-bankruptcy/?ref=global-home

http://gawker.com/5220143/thomas-friedman-will-have-to-sell-his-moustache-for-food

I admire your blogging Accountable Talk and usually agree with your insights. But saying ANYTHING nice about the Mustache of Understanding when he is clearly a) wrong about most everything b) a hypocrite c) an asshole, brings me out to say I think you got this post wrong - you should never write anything about Friedman without pointing out what a colossal failure he has been as a pundit or what a hypocrite he is.

BTW, just started a series on holding corporate ed reform journalists accountable for the crap they write. Today was Jonathan Alter. Next up is Tom Friedman (and this comment actually helped me find a few links for the post - thanks!!!)

Mr. Talk said...

I appreciate your candor, RBE, and perhaps I should have made it clear that I was referring to the education part of his Op-ed only. I've publicly disagreed with Nick Kristoff's ed policies on this blog as well, but I think he's right on some other issues, most notably Darfur and the treatment of women worldwide.

It reminds me of the old analogy that it's wrong to break people's legs, even if the person telling you so breaks people's arms. Friedman may well be wrong about a lot of things, but he's right on this particular issue. Reforms have been an utter failure and teachers have been wrongly scapegoated, and that's true even if the guy who says so has done some shady things.

reality-based educator said...

You're right that he is making a good point about reform and parents, but in the same column he is talking about business ethics and sacrifices that people must make when it is demonstrably clear that he himself has no business ethics (really, General Growth Properties is a shady organization on par with the fellows from Glengarry Glen Ross) and refuses to sacrifice anything (or maybe he'd move to a smaller, you know, mansion.)

That stuff just rubs me the wrong way, and frankly undercuts the education point for me, especially when it is in the very same column as the good education point he makes.

But that's my issue and I guess I'll just have to talk it out in therapy this week!

Pissed Off said...

How about the fact that years ago kids didn't have to go to school and take all this academic stuff they have no interest in? I wonder why no one ever mentions this when they discuss student motivation.