That statement comes from New York Times columnist David Brooks, one of the more astute observers of the economic change occurring around the world. His May 2, 2008 essay entitled The Cognitive Age has precisely captured the fundamental issue America faces - education.
While our political leaders focus on the shift of jobs from the U.S. to other areas of the world and blame poor trade agreements or unfair labor practices or a host of other issues - they miss the real force driving economic change around the world and that is TECHNOLOGY.
As Mr Brooks states:
"The central process driving this is not globalization. It’s the skills revolution. We’re moving into a more demanding cognitive age. In order to thrive, people are compelled to become better at absorbing, processing and combining information. This is happening in localized and globalized sectors, and it would be happening even if you tore up every free trade deal ever inked."
A "more demanding cognitive age" -- what does that imply in a world being changed by TECHNOLOGY?
COGNITIVE - "pertaining to the mental processes of perception, memory, judgment, and reasoning; conscious intellectual activity (as thinking, reasoning, remembering, imagining) "
What academic subjects might be best at developing more thoroughly one's cognitive skills in a technology driven world - might they be math, physics, chemistry, biology, computer science?
Professors Eric Hanushek, and Ludger Woessmann of the University of Munich presented persuasive data in their March 2008 report that "education boosts economic growth -- but only if students' cognitive skills, as measured by math and science tests, are improved as a result."
This would make sense - if economic growth is being driven by technology and math and science knowledge allows the creation of new technology, then a country with large numbers of citizens steeped in math and science should grow more quickly.
So, how does our education compare in cognitive skills development, through math and science, to, say India's?
United States High Schools (not required for graduation, but typical of high achieving students)
Physics - 1 year
Chemistry - 1 year
Biology - 1 year
Math - 4 years
Computer Science - 1 year
India (ISCE National Standard - starts in 8th grade - required for graduation on technology track = high achievers)
Physics - 5 years
Chemistry - 5 years
Biology - 5 years
Math - 5 years
Computer Science - 5 years
As Mr. Brooks observes:
"Information can now travel 15,000 miles in an instant. But the most important part of information’s journey is the last few inches — the space between a person’s eyes or ears and the various regions of the brain. Does the individual have the capacity to understand the information? Does he or she have the training to exploit it?"