A Low Expectation of our Generation

I’m currently taking a Business and Politics class for the fall semester at Marquette, and while some of the concepts are difficult for me to grasp, I have found the class to be quite beneficial and interesting all around. However, it’s one of those classes that wakes you up to reality. Unlike the Philosophy of Human Nature or Introduction to Sociology (two of my other classes), my Business and Politics class gives a vivid presentation of where America stands in the world, how it got there, and where it is going. While my teacher is absolutely a liberal man, I respect greatly that he presents both sides of every issue and opens the door for class discussion and deliberation so that we can figure out on our own terms how we feel about a certain subject.

Curiously enough, this liberal PhD-holding-professor has had us read a significant chunk of the book, The World is Flat: A brief history of the world, by Thomas Friedman. If you have not read the book, I strongly recommend it. It is captivating, informative, and eye-opening. Friedman begins the book by describing how he sees the world as flat. Technology has allowed the United States to set up call centers in India that operate during our evening hours. These call centers deal with questions and inquiries by the myriads from American and European consumers. Doctors may digitally send X-rays or MRI reports to the East to be read by Indian doctors who, again, are in the middle of their work days as ours comes to a close. This not only offers our American doctor a second opinion of a report, but also allows him to leave the office at 5:00 or 6:00 to get home to his family and rest up.

The world is flattening. We are closer to each other than ever before, while still remaining oceans apart.

Keeping in mind the fact that we are now so close to our Asian neighbors, it is thus important to realize that the playing field has expanded exponentially, and this is something that should be very unsettling for my generation and the ones to follow here in America. The college-bound and college-educated in China and India are bolting with extraordinary diligence to the top. The Asian education systems pump millions of fantastically educated, incomparably motivated young go-getters who are ready and willing to bump us American kids out of the jobs to which we feel inherently entitled. While we American students, myself included, feel burdened and overworked by our 15 credit hours, part time jobs, and one, maybe two extracurriculars, our Asian counter-parts are working ’round the clock on academics and advancing their careers, putting effort into their every aspect of living that is not so common now a days in our U.S. universities.

My Business and Politics professor put this phenomena rather well: You’re in your own little cocoon right now, and within that cocoon, you have created this little world for yourself in which you succeed, but you never take the time to notice that all around that cocoon people are beating in the walls. And soon, you won’t have that protective wall all around you anymore and you’ll know what real competition is.

Looking around my very own dorm, this scenario comes to life. Every day I watch 18, 19, 20 year olds take a $37,000/year education and nonchalantly throw it to the dogs, but ironically enough, even with a 2.5 GPA, these young adults will still come out of school and get good, maybe even great jobs. We can’t count on that happening anymore. I think Friedman put it very well in his book when he stated, “In China, when you’re one in a million, there are 1,300 other people just like you.” Americans just seem to take education for granted, even though it’s one of the most important things we can possibly do for ourselves, and we no longer strive for excellence, just mediocrity.

The playing field is expanding, and the best of the best are going to be the ones to put on the uniform. There is less room for second stringers nowadays, and that becomes increasingly more frightening as it seems that Americans are turning into those second stringers.

Usually I try to come up with some sort of answer, or at least a valid response to whatever given problem I discuss, but I’m at a loss for this one. Of course, I would recommend more money in education (as anyone who reads this thing even once in a while would know), but I’m not sure what else should be done. How do you change the mentality of an entire generation?

Thoughts? Suggestions?

P.S. Enjoy this fun fact:
At 12:34 on Sunday, September 16, 2007, the war in Iraq has cost the United States $452,045, 151,134. Instead, the U.S. could have provided 21,914,160 students four-year scholarships at state universities. Nice. http://nationalpriorities.org/index.php?option=com_content&Itemid=207&id=322&task=view

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4 Responses to “A Low Expectation of our Generation”

  1. Ryan Says:

    Well in a way the way this country works is like double-edged sword. It’s good that if people screw up along the way they can get a second chance, but on the other hand how many extra chances should a person get if they just aren’t cutting it or if they just don’t care. I know I mentioned this in a post about 6 months ago and you mentioned it in the quote “In China, when you’re one in a million, there are 1,300 other people just like you,” but in an education class I took last year we discussed the topic of how American education compares to other countries’ systems. I think the four main countries we looked at were China, India, Japan, and Germany and from what I recall the conclusion was that American students are just as smart as those in other countries. The problem is the general attitude that Americans have education. Many countries specifically the Asian ones mentioned above see a higher western education as a privilege and a ticket to get ahead in life so much that it is indoctrinated in them as children, we on the other hand tend to view higher education as a right and a necessary part of growing up. That coupled with the media typically reporting on how bad schools are doing when in reality they are not, (Don’t get me wrong there are schools where there are poorly-educated teachers, but usually that’s only one school in a district, but the media makes the whole district look bad) leads to self-fulfilling prophecies that American students just can’t be as smart as foreign students. So yes something needs to be done on our attitudes, and here is a sobering thought, if Cubano can be successful then so can I.

  2. 06jk Says:

    Really good insight, Ryan. I would whole-heartedly agree with you in saying that Americans aren’t dumb by any means… but their attitude sucks. While our best of the best is still probably “better” than those of the rest of the world, the gap is closing quickly.

    Please comment more; you always have really good things to say, and I like hearing it.

  3. throughpaulseyes Says:

    Here’s an answer to the problem. Blow em up

  4. Mike Hetherington Says:

    Great insight Ryan. You are fortunate to have a professor who is open-minded and willing to model critical thinking. Do not succumb to the environment of low expectations that surrounds you. Your true competitors and collaborators are not sitting next to you in class, but are half a world away and operating at a much higher academic level than your peers. Target that level and you will be very successful.

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