by Gary Beach

Is the U.S. Education System Being Left Behind?

May 01, 20072 mins
IT Skills

Today, problems with IT education can sabotage our attempts to compete globally.

My recent column in which I suggested that America must retool its educational system to emphasize training in the sciences, math and technology or risk becoming a nation of digital bricklayers rather than architects of the new global economy seems to have hit the CIO community like…the proverbial ton of bricks. I quoted from the National Center on Education and the Economy report “Tough Choices for Tough Times,” which claimed that “the core problem facing America is that our education and training systems were built for another era.”

Like, say, the 19th century.

One CIO, who moonlights as a local school board member, pinned the blame for that on outdated traditionalist thinking carried over from the 20th century. “How about teaching Mandarin rather than French and German in our classrooms?” suggested another. (Interesting thought. Why not?)

A security executive was more dour: “Our education system has not been competitive for some time now. The system is broken. We fail to produce leaders who take ownership of fixing the situation. Writing about this makes me sick.” (See How to Turn Your Employees into Leaders for suggestions on how to produce responsible leadership at all levels of your organization.)

Another reader wrote: “These problems are systemic and endemic. I’m not sure there’s a cure the federal government can impose. When our education system was considered to be the very best in the world (in the 20th century), it was during a period when the federal government played a very minimal role, while state and local governments had the discretion to distribute and utilize educational funding in ways that were most beneficial to their constituents.”

Some branded me a prophet of doom, claiming that there are more IT jobs now than at the height of the dotcom boom. One reader proposed that todays multiskilled American workforce is more knowledgeable about IT applications and IT building blocks than ever before. “This is progress, not death,” he added.

What do you think? Are we making progress, or are we dying?