News Herald – Juliann Talkington
Steve Jobs is the most well known innovator of the modern age. The products his company, Apple Computer, produces are accessible, useful, reliable and cool – the epitome of American innovation. Jobs followed a tradition of great innovators who inspired change and fueled the U.S. economy.
Some say U.S. leadership in innovation is waning. For years, the World Economic Forum routinely cited the US as having the most competitive economy on the planet. In recent years, the U.S. has been overtaken in this category.
According to a Newsweek, “Two studies that use government statistics and hard data to compare global innovation were released in 2009. One study was conducted by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and the other one was conducted by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF). Both studies suggest the United States has lost the lead in innovation, ranking eighth in the BCG study and sixth in the ITIF one.”
Part of the slippage is due to increased regulation, higher taxes and fees and a legal system that punishes people for taking risks.
In addition, the U.S. is falling behind in human capital. International test results suggest many U.S. kids do not have the basic math, science and language arts skills to handle the information age jobs available.
To make matters more challenging, many of our recent graduates do not have the creative energy or exposure that once put US workers in high demand.
Employers struggling to keep up with global competition are starting to speak with their hiring practices. In 2011, only slightly more than 50% of the college graduates in the U.S. had full times jobs.
Yet, many primary and secondary school are becoming more rigid. Worried about liability, schools have eliminated laboratory science classes and removed open-end problem solving from the curriculum. Even science fairs are now just halls of paper and poster board. Many subjects have become focused on material that can be tested with multiple-choice exams.
To succeed, American youth needs better basic skills and more exposure to creative problem solving. They need to learn the basics and then be allowed to once again blend smelly chemicals, play with sound using annoying musical instruments, cobble mechanisms together with scrap metal, stabilize structures using ice and dirt – yes, tinker with messy and unsavory things.
If we do these two things, school “work” will become more rewarding and fun and our kids will be well prepared for 21st century jobs.