NY Times columnist brings theory to UNI, stresses importance of college education

By Sheila Moussavi 2007

Already well-respected for his column in the NY Times, three Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas Friedman reached new heights with the publication of his immediately acclaimed book, The World is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century. Last Wednesday, I saw Friedman give a lecture at the University of Northern Iowa on his latest book and how he came to form the theory behind it.

Friedman told the crowd that for a year before he began working on this book, he traveled the world, looking for information on outsourcing. At some point during his travels, he spoke to an entrepreneur in India who made a comment that would soon become an obsession for Friedman. The comment was this: “The economic playing field is being leveled,” which Friedman in turn took to mean “The world is becoming flat.”

Within 10 months of making this observation, Friedman had produced a best seller of the same name. But what does this seemingly implausible notion mean?

The book is about advancing stages of globalization and its effect on the world at large. Through several advancements in technology, the primary concern of globalization has shifted from trade between countries to trade between individuals, regardless of their home countries. Because of technological advancements, primarily the Internet, Friedman would tell you that success doesn’t depend so much of where you live anymore, as what skills you possess. After all, thanks to the Internet, an old lady in Afghanistan could just as easily sell hand-made crafts on eBay as any American, her home country being of no consequence at all. And as everyone everywhere continues to be wired together through technology, barriers between people are removed and Friedman’s theory that the economic world is being flattened makes increasingly more sense.

The amazing thing is, just now, when we’re reaching the pinnacle of globalization, no one in America seems to car. We are not preparing for a flat word, despite the fact that very shortly, it will hardly matter that America is the richest country in the world and success will depend almost entirely on individual competitiveness.

Well, Friedman offers a way to approach this situation that is very relevant to us a high school students. According to him, in order to prepare American citizens for a flat world, the government’s top priority should be providing as many of us a possible with a college education. In Friedman’s opinion, the only way to do this is by offering free, government-funded college eduction for anyone who wants it.

By adopting socialized education, America will be on equal footing with all other 1st world nations, most of which already follow this system. This way, more individuals will be able to receive the necessary education to compete in the work force.

After all, when a doctor in India can read an interpret your X-rays via the Internet, “There is no such thing as an American job.”


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