Saturday, October 30, 2010

can exaggerate how much the U.S. sucks

This is a response to a self-hating paragraph in a Thomas Friedman column.  I typed this in a hurry, and it's woefully incomplete.

The original article is here: Can't Keep a Bad Idea Down

Although it mostly talks about how the Tea Party sucks and the Republicans are dragging us into hell, this paragraph pissed me off:

"Here is a little dose of reality about where we actually rank today," says Vest: sixth in global innovation-based competitiveness, but 40th in rate of change over the last decade;"

This is not bad, considering we are competing with relatively small countries like Norway and Hong Kong.  And of course when you're already near the top your rate of change is likely to be small compared to places like China, who have nowhere to go but up.

11th among industrialized nations in the fraction of 25- to 34-year-olds who have graduated from high school

Again, probably not as shocking as it sounds.  We're a big, diverse country, and it's harder for us to compete with a country like Germany that has a low birth rate.

16th in college completion rate

This tells me nothing.  Perhaps we throw more people into college than we should?  Maybe we have state-subsidized college education that encourages the children of the wealthy to party for a couple of years before giving up?

22nd in broadband Internet access

Fiber-to-the-burbs!  So grandma and grandpa Kim in South Korea have gigabit fiber to their apartment?  Why?

24th in life expectancy at birth

Don't have a quick answer for this one.  Get back with me.

27th among developed nations in the proportion of college students receiving degrees in science or engineering

And yet we have a higher education system that is the envy of the world.  Why do students from all over the planet come here to study science and engineering?

48th in quality of K-12 math and science education

Again, difficult to believe.  How is this measured?

29th in the number of mobile phones per 100 people.

That's because we still cling to land lines.  This is totally disingenuous.  There are many poor areas of the planet that have leap-frogged over landline technology directly to cell phones, this should be something to celebrate, not used as some kind of criticism of the U.S.