Your Lying Eyes

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16 September 2005

Better Do Your Homework or Hoardes of Math Whizzes From Singapore Are Going to Come Over Here and Eat Your Lunch!

Awhile back I linked to a hilarious review of Tom Friedman's new book. The reviewer excoriated Friedman's writing - this column illustrates why.
At any rate, Friedman spends most of the column plugging a new teaching program for math called "Hey Math!" which was developed in Singapore, a city-state of 4 million people who Friedman is convinced will overtake us - "Message to America: They are not racing us to the bottom. They are racing us to the top."...Read more Yeah, I don't get it either - why would they be racing us to the bottom? Unless he's implying we're going to the bottom, but if they're racing us to the top then we're going there too? Just forget it - you can't figure out his little quips. His finishing flourish does not disappoint: "[M]ath and science are the keys to innovation and power in today's world, and American parents had better understand that the people who are eating their kids' lunch in math are not resting on their laurels." Are they eating their laurels? Oh, never mind.
What galls me most is the insistence - and it's not just Friedman - that we are lagging in science and engineering because our kids are either lazy or our teachers are too boring or both. There's one fundamental difference between us and Singapore that Friedman overlooks - we're not Singapore! We are not going to be mobilizing our children to study 5 hours a day to master advanced mathematics. Ethnically, Singapore is predominantly Chinese (over 75%), not Malay. East Asians, such as Chinese, Koreans, and Japanese, score significantly higher on quantitative portions of IQ tests than Europeans. So there isn't a chance we will ever even catch up to Singapore in scholastic math achievement, never mind pull ahead.
But is he kidding? Four (4) million Singaporeans are going to "eat our lunch"? We have 300 million people - what's he afraid of? We have 9 million Jews alone - they can eat the 4 million Singaporeans' breakfast, lunch, and dinner! What a kook.
Of course the real reason we face danger as a nation due to low engineering graduation rates is because there's no jobs for a young engineer to do. We outsource our engineering jobs (probably not to Singapore - I doubt we can afford them). So bright young people looking for a rewarding career need to look into fields that aren't so easily traded - like law or finance where actually being an American still gives you a competetive edge in America.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This editorial caught my eye today… I had to read it again to see if I missed something… I didn’t, and your blog confirmed my opinion that this guy’s an idiot. I also noticed that this Friedman wrote an editorial on how something like what happed after Katrina, would never happen in Singapore. For one it’s much smaller, and the powerful, efficient government comes at the cost of civil liberties. If Friedman was writing editorials about the after effects of a mishandled Singapore disaster for one of their newspapers, he wouldn’t be resting on his laurels, but on a guillotine.

September 17, 2005 4:23 PM  
Blogger ziel said...

For one thing Singapore is above sea level - not alot above sea level, but you don't have to be alot above sea level to be in way better shape than someone who's below sea level.

September 17, 2005 6:25 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

So many blogs and only 10 numbers to rate them. I'll have to give you a 9 because you have a quailty topic.

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October 11, 2005 4:10 PM  

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