Monthly Archives: November 2020

Revisiting Tom Friedman’s book [AMERICA] That Used To Be Us

Unpublished blog dated September 2011is still a prescient warning today:

A recent discussion on museums being in the hospitality business on the American Association of Museums LinkedIn group sent sparks flying.  Yet other current cyberspace hot topics that may pertain to the museum field, either directly or indirectly, provide important crossover perspectives. First, museums collect and preserve the best of the past and Tom Friedman’s about to be released book, That Used To Be Us, reflects upon America’s former  innovator/inventor world role. Also, Forbes magazine ran a two-part article on K-12 education reform contributed by Steve Denning, a management consultant, highlighting lifelong learning;  and, a current Harvard Business Review article touts, of all people—museum curators! 

If the world was flat just a few short years ago, then it has morphed into something entirely different, according to author Tom Friedman in his new book That Used To Be Us— How America Fell Behind in the World it Invented. Less one think this is a maudlin trip down “memory lane,” Friedman insists he just wants to wake up and Americans and get them moving. Maybe Stella lost her groove for good, but Friedman and coauthor, Michael Mandelbaum end their book on an upbeat note and with a charge, hence the rest of the subtitle …and How We Can Come Back. Both authors are foreign affairs specialists: Friedman is columnist for the New York Times, and Mandelbaum, Professor of American Foreign Policy at Johns Hopkins University. The wake up call: don’t wait for the jobs to come back, because they’re not. It will take an idea that will start a small business and hire a few people, replicated over and over in towns and cities across America. Hierarchy, as we have known it, can no longer exist for it is not just leadership that can be the sole source of ideas and innovation—everyone is needed to contribute to the new global knowledge economy. As future Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Martin Dempsey tells Friedman, the future  isn’t going to be about men and women who are physically fit and follow orders but individuals who are willing to play an integral role in “a values-based group, who can communicate, who are inquisitive, and who have an instinct to collaborate.” Another writer attracting attention is Steve Denning, a management consultant and author who was asked to contribute his thoughts on the single most needed idea to reform K-12 education. In the first of his two-part article for Forbes magazine http://tinyurl.com/4xsgdxe, Denning writes of education’s roots in factory processes for efficiency. “The single most important idea for reform in K-12” for Denning is that “education concerns a change in goal that needs to shift from one of making a system that teaches children a curriculum more efficiently to one of making the system more effective by inspiring lifelong learning in students, so that they are able to have full and productive lives in a rapidly shifting economy.” Denning develops his argument thoroughly and provides what the implications would have to be to effect change: the changing roles of parent, teachers, administrators, overhauling tests and shifting the focus from command to conversations, and finally from outputs (factory) to outcomes. In the second part of his article, Denning responds to comments from readers which include those of national educational reformers http://tinyurl.com/3tqjk4e. Another education reform under discussion since the 2008 financial market meltdown is business school curricula and what MBA education lacked in preparing its graduates for the workplace. Obviously, ethical behavior and corporate responsibility are being taken into account. Another is what in addition to financial analysis skills what are ways of producing more creative and innovative thinkers. One approach cutting-edge business schools such as Case Western University, Rotman School in Toronto and others is the addition of design laboratories in their -schools to encourage “design thinking.” The next blog installment is my open-source article of a “case study” from Yuan Dynasty China (1279-1368).

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