Suggesting that someone has to experience something firsthand to understand it – or to believe it, or get it, or recognize it – is usually folly. They can know without having been there, and having been there doesn’t guarantee knowledge. Standard stuff.
But if you haven’t done it, if you haven’t been there, you’d better be able to craft solid arguments and defend them when you’re up against people who have. Evidence for your case and against your opponent’s is a necessary thing.
If you can’t handle your side of the debate, it’s time to collect some evidence firsthand.
Last Friday saw Two Million Minutes Executive Producer Bob Compton debate Washington Post columnist Jay Mathews on CNBC’s Street Signs with Erin Burnett. If you haven’t seen it, watch the video or read my transcript.
Compton opened with testimony about his hiring woes. He simply can’t fill six-figure Java programming positions here in the United States. Mathews countered:
“Well, there is indeed a teeny slice of Chinese and Indian schools that are educating kids at a very high level – and that’s good, the more middle class Chinese and Indians we have out there, the more customers for American goods.”
Compton left the following comment on my post about the current economic gap – a marked trade deficit – between the US and both India and China:
“Does he [Mathews] realize the US has a $14 BILLION trade deficit with China and a $1.3 BILLION trade deficit with India? That means we buy more Chinese and Indian goods than they buy American goods…
… To add insult to economic injury, China has loaned the US $150 BILLION by being the second largest buyer of Treasury securities.
And China recently stabilized Morgan Stanley’s balance sheet by buying 10% of the firm for $5 BILLION.”
The trade deficit is much larger than that, but the point remains the same. We’ve got the short end of the stick.
Mathews would also do well to acknowledge that as he was squirming on CNBC, his colleague at the Washington Post, Maureen Fay, had a front-page piece on that outrageously unfettered aspect of the Chinese economy: knockoffs and piracy:
“For years, China has been known as the leading exporter of fake goods, from Louis Vuitton handbags and Patek Philippe watches to auto and jet engine parts. The underground economy, which according to U.S. trade officials costs American companies $3 billion to $4 billion annually, has been allowed to flourish by a Chinese government that seldom prosecutes intellectual property violations.”
Those Chinese consumers, Mr. Mathews, are quite happy to ignore our intellectual property laws. The hasty, largely-ineffective crackdown cited in the Fay piece is a result of the Olympics – China pockets 15% of legitimate, licensed sales of Olympics-related merchandise. Not a bad gig.
And after the Olympics? Well, China just needs a little time, it says. And it’s true – developing, implementing and enforcing effective intellectual property rights/laws doesn’t happen overnight. That swell of “more customers for American goods” doesn’t help the American economy when one guy pays $18 for a DVD and then burns 1,000 copies to sell for a few bucks each on the streets of Beijing.
Mathews, however, has discovered the real problem here: creativity. It’s creativity that runs the American economy, not them thar book smarts:
But Bob is suggesting that our country is going to Hell in a handbasket if we don’t improve the schools because schools are the key to the economy and we’ve proved over the last several years that it’s not our schools that produce our great economy, it’s people like Bob. Bob will tell you himself that he had a pretty bad education, didn’t do very well, didn’t apply himself, but he’s a smart, creative guy, once he got into the American economic, social and cultural system, he went bananas.
Not our schools that produce our great economy? Uh oh, Jay – you’d better not let any of those darlings on your Newsweek list hear you.
Now, I haven’t gone back to verify this – I’m just working from memory here – but I believe Mr. Compton holds an MBA from Harvard Business School, an institution that Mathews is happy to characterize as part of a “pretty bad education.”
If you’re unfamiliar, Jay, fear not – you don’t even have to dial out for this one. Just call up WaPo’s Peter Carlson, who described Harvard Business School a scant three weeks ago as “the mecca of capitalism.” If I remember right, Mr. Compton was near the bottom of his class, but no matter – it’s a fine place for graduate study.
And not everyone thinks that we’re doing a terribly good job with creativity:
“When you start working with teachers, tapping into their creativity, then you start designing curriculums [sic] that tap into the children’s creativity.”
The implication there is that we do nothing with creativity in our schools but stifle it [NCLB, ya know] – we stifle it for the teachers and for the students. Mathews says that we’re so saturated in creativity that we don’t even have to worry about India and China competing with us.
Maybe Jay Mathews should call up presumptive Democratic Presidential Nominee Barack Obama, who said the above words a day or two ago, and help him alter his stump speech re: creativity.
And if you’re not sure why this creativity business matters, Mathews explains:
“In order to get jobs, in order to get effective jobs, you have to be creative.”
I’ll have to stop there for now – it’ll take me another day to figure out the difference between a “job” and an “effective job.” I’ll just tap into my innate American creativity skills!
2 Responses to “Fisking Jay Mathews on the Global Economy and Education, Part 1”
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