Bad Schools + Shackled Principals=Outsourcing
Ohanian Comment: Gerstner is up to his old tricks. Climbing out from under the Carlyle rock, he repeats the claim he's been making since the education summit where he held hands with Pres. Bush I and Arkansas governor Bill Clinton. He claims jobs are being outsourced not because of corporate greed but because American schoolteachers are lousy.
I have pasted in the members of the Teaching Commission below Gerstner's rant.
Not to continue to blow my own horn, but you need to read Why Is Corporate America Bashing Our Public Schools? by Kathy Emery and Susan Ohanian.
America is engaged in an unconventional conflict that stretches to every corner of the globe. It is being fought on unfamiliar terrain. It demands we rapidly repair old vulnerabilities and develop new skills and strengths. Our nation, which has prevailed in conflict after conflict over several centuries, now faces a stark and sudden choice: adapt or perish.
I'm not referring to the war against terrorism but to a war of skills -- one that America is at a risk of losing to India, China, and other emerging economies. And we're not at risk of losing it on factory floors or lab benches. It's happening every day, all across the country, in our public schools. Unless we transform those schools -- by upgrading our corps of classroom teachers for the next generation -- and do it now, it will soon be too late.
As this global challenge emerges, far too much of the debate has focused on "job outsourcing" -- defined most often as American companies moving jobs to lower cost labor markets in order to improve efficiency. Yet too often this misses the crucial point: American companies don't simply go offshore for inexpensive labor. They are increasingly going abroad to find skills that aren't available, or plentiful, in their own backyard. And at the very same time, foreign companies are not taking market share from U.S. companies simply because they have less expensive workers. Those workers increasingly have equal or better skills.
Another trend is exacerbating this skill deficiency still further. For decades, millions of talented scientists and engineers have flocked to the U.S. to study in our universities and work for cutting-edge companies. But as their home countries improve economically and politically, they are beginning to migrate back. America -- on the receiving end of a brain drain for years -- is starting to suffer from a reverse brain drain.
In response, what do we see? The leading U.S. tech companies are all opening research laboratories in Asia -- labs that will source high-tech jobs from the highly educated students pouring out of Asian universities (or returning from training in America's best universities). The trends are also ominous in trade statistics: In recent years, the U.S. global share of high-tech exports has declined while the share from Asian countries other than Japan have climbed to nearly 30%. The trend lines crossed -- maybe once and for all -- around 1994.
So what do we do? Well, a lot of the rhetoric coming out of the presidential campaigns is not encouraging. John Kerry wants to offer tax incentives for companies that create jobs here in America and toughen trade policy; President Bush calls for making his tax cuts permanent and improving job training.
We are fooling ourselves if we believe that tweaking tax rates, training, or trade agreements will turn this tide. The global information economy is here. It is brutal and unforgiving. And here is the hard truth: the layoffs we have experienced to date will pale in comparison to future losses if we fail to awaken to the scope of the crisis and the need for bold solutions that address the problem at its roots.
The only way to ensure we remain a world economic power is by elevating our public schools -- particularly the teachers who lead them -- to the top tier of American society. We have treated teaching as a second-rate profession for decades -- with sub-par compensation, antiquated training, and arcane systems of accountability. It's designed for the industrial age, not the age of information and innovation.
It's time to reconnect education reform to our economic competitiveness. That's why, last year, I founded The Teaching Commission: 18 accomplished Americans, including business leaders, educators, and former governors from both political parties, joined me. We believe teaching must be modernized immediately through a series of bold reforms.
The teaching profession is undervalued, figuratively and literally. So we believe it's finally time to pay teachers much more. But at the very same time, we have to pay them more intelligently -- once and for all breaking the inane, outdated salary schedules that fail to offer more money to teachers with math and science skills, and fail to recognize and reward excellence.
We believe it's time to make teaching an attractive, accessible profession for the most talented and motivated Americans, no matter what their formal training, by breaking down the bureaucratic barriers to entry that can keep Ph.D.s, even Nobel Prize winners, out of public school classrooms. And we believe it's time to give principals, who are charged with leading schools to excellence, the authority they need to hire and fire their staff. Without that power, accountability is a cruel joke.
We are losing the skill war. America, head to the barricades. Our schoolrooms are the true battleground.
Mr. Gerstner, founder of the non-profit Teaching Commission and former chairman of IBM, is chairman of the Carlyle Group.
The Teaching Commission
Louis V. Gerstner, Jr.
Roy E. Barnes
Richard I. Beattie
Kenneth I. Chenault
Philip M. Condit
James B. Hunt, Jr.
Ellen Condliffe Lagemann
W. James McNerney, Jr.
Scott E. Painter
Richard W. Riley
Louis V. Gerstner, Jr.
Wall Street Journal