Is the America of high-performance innovators, entrepreneurs and problem-solvers stagnating into self-absorbed consumerism?
Consider our culture. Having become dependent on cellphones, American lives revolve more and more around Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and other self-absorbed social media. Now comes the ultimate in self enthrallment: “selfies,” self-portrait photos posted on social media highlighting what one is doing from moment to moment. Recent studies show college students spend more time on social media than on studies, six out of 10 employees interrupt work for social media activities, and one out of 10 workers spends more time on the Internet than on work – all helping stagnate productivity.
Consider our economy. We have moved from a nation that primarily produces things to one that primarily consumes things produced by other countries. The things we consume range beyond items needed for basic living. If you visited Amazon, Walmart, Target and other outlets on Black Friday, you saw an unbelievable array of nonessential stuff for sale, much produced in China. As our production has stagnated, China’s has soared and become more high performing.
Consider our education. The latest international test scores in math, science and reading show “U.S. students continue to perform poorly.” The tests covering 64 countries showed the U.S. slipping from 25th to 31st in math, 20th to 24th in science, and 11th to 21st in reading. These tests are designed to show whether students can apply what they’ve learned in school to real-life problems … skills fundamental to high-performance innovation, entrepreneurship and problem-solving.
“Our scores are stagnant,” said Jack Buckley, commissioner at the National Center for Education Statistics, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education.
Production-economy oriented China had the highest scores and the biggest gains. This followed a 10-year initiative in China to improve teacher preparation and poor-performing classrooms.
To improve on these tests, U.S. students need to show they can apply school learning to real-life problems. That happens to be the mission of a controversial school reform movement:
“The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers.”
Sure seems a no-brainer that America should strive to bring production jobs back from overseas, limit social media/Internet disruption of learning and work, and focus education on skills relevant to high-performance.
But, consider our leadership. More and more, performance and productivity take a back seat to self promotion and contemptuousness – activities especially suited to social media.
“What do I fear? Stagnation and lack of progress” – Unknown.
Bill Crawford (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a syndicated columnist from Meridian.