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That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back
     

That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back

3.9 68
by Thomas L. Friedman
 

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A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice
A Los Angeles Times Best Book of 2011

In That Used to Be Us, Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum analyze the four major challenges we face as a country---globalization, the revolution in information technology, chronic deficits, and our pattern of energy consumption---and spell out what we

Overview

A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice
A Los Angeles Times Best Book of 2011

In That Used to Be Us, Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum analyze the four major challenges we face as a country---globalization, the revolution in information technology, chronic deficits, and our pattern of energy consumption---and spell out what we need to do now to preserve American power in the world. The end of the Cold War blinded the nation to the need to address these issues seriously, and China's educational successes, industrial might, and technological prowess in many ways remind us of a time when "that used to be us." But Friedman and Mandelbaum show how America's history, when properly understood, offers a five-part formula for prosperity that will enable us to cope successfully with the challenges we face. That Used to Be Us is both a searching exploration of the American condition today and a rousing manifesto for American renewal.

Editorial Reviews

Walter Russell Mead
…a thoughtful and balanced corrective to critics on the left who believe that our present economic troubles demonstrate the fundamental failure of the liberal democratic capitalist ideas on which American society is built, and the critics on the right who believe that only a return to 19th-century small government policies can save us…Few readers will agree with every observation and argument in this thoroughly researched and passionately argued book, but all of them should find That Used to Be Us compelling, engaging and enlightening.
—The New York Times
David Frum
…a book that is at once enlightened and enlightening. Friedman—not that you need me to tell you this—is a very good reporter…The partnership with Mandelbaum has been fruitful, curbing Friedman's notorious verbal excesses and stiffening the book with extra analytic rigor
—The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly
Reflecting on America's past greatness and its slipping position among global powers, Pulitzer-Prize winning New York Times columnist Friedman (The World is Flat) and foreign policy expert Mandelbaum (The Frugal Superpower) warn against the United States' "dangerous complacency" in the face of increasingly complex global challenges. They repeat a question first posed by Bill Gates ("What was all that good stuff we had that other people copied?") and prescribe a set of sensible government practices for prosperity: invest in public education and infrastructure, foster immigration and scientific research, and set up effective financial regulation. The rapid upheaval of the Arab Spring exemplifies the dynamism of today's intertwined world ("Flat World 2.0"), where ideas and innovation—not goods or skills—are an individual or country's top economic commodities. American workers must approach the global marketplace with creativity in order to remain globally competitive. To that end, they also support reigning in the national debt and committing to the use of alternative energy sources. Broad ranging in its anecdotes and research, conversational (if pedantic) in its tone, and hopeful in its patriotism, they look the challenges of the 21st century squarely in the eye. (Sept.)
From the Publisher

“At once enlightened and enlightening...[American society] could use more of the generous responsible spirit Friedman and Mandelbaum recommend.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Thoroughly researched and passionately argued...That Used to Be Us is an important contribution to an intensifying debate, and it deserves the widest possible attention....Compelling.” —The New York Times

“Anyone who cares about America's future---anyone planning to vote in 2012---ought to read this book and hear the authors' compelling case.” —The Christian Science Monitor

“An important and eminently readable book.” —The New York Review of Books

“Touches a nerve...In a country whose politicians are partisan intransigents and whose commentators are more interested in zingers than solutions, it takes courage to be so baldly civic-minded.” —BusinessWeek

Library Journal
Globalization. Infotech shake-up. Out-of-control energy consumption. Lasting deficits. The four big problems we're not grappling with, according to three-time Pulitzer Prize winner Friedman (The World Is Flat) and Mandelbaum, director of the American Foreign Policy program at Johns Hopkins. Here they analyze the problems and offer some solutions, including the revival of our core values (okay, vague) and establishment of a third party. Sure to grab attention, given Friedman's rep, and get the debate going.
Kirkus Reviews

A comprehensive but unoriginal look at the challenges America faces in 2011 and beyond.

New York Timescolumnist Friedman (Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution—and How It Can Save America, 2008, etc.) and Mandelbaum (American Foreign Policy/Johns Hopkins Univ.; The Frugal Superpower: America's Global Leadership in a Cash-Strapped Era, 2010, etc.) join forces to explain why they believe America's glory days are waning and what Americans should do to reverse the downward slide. The authors suggest that America's problems should be addressed through "stick-to-itiveness," political compromise and a renewed sense of national purpose. Americans must admit that global warming exists, impose saner environmental regulations, reform the immigration policy, demand more from teachers, principals and schools, lower government spending and break the addiction to oil. None of these recommendations are new, and all have been argued more cogently elsewhere. (For more incisive discussions of climate change, see Bill McKibben's Eaarth. Regarding oil, see Amanda Little's Power Trip.) Friedman and Mandelbaum's solutions to America's difficulties take the form of motivational slogans littered with clichés, and they delight in relating inspirational tales of average Americans who accomplished great things by being "just too dumb to quit." More than once, they write that Americans must be prepared to do "something big and hard together," to become "creative creators." The urgency of deficit reduction places "the future of the country" in our hands, "as it was for the GIs on the beaches of Normandy." High-skilled immigrants are "brainy risk takers;" low-skilled immigrants are "the brawny ones" (America needs both). Friedman and Mandelbaum are clearly attempting to make complicated concepts accessible to a general audience. However, in relying on Friedman's trademark blend of condescension, clumsy analogies and uninspiring centrism, they fail to break any new ground.

While the challenges described in the book are serious indeed, and most readers will agree with much of what the authors explore, the narrative execution is lacking. Disappointing.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781410441287
Publisher:
Gale Cengage Learning
Publication date:
10/07/2011
Edition description:
Large Print
Pages:
695
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.20(d)

Read an Excerpt

That Used To Be Us

How America Fell Behind in the World it Invented and How we can Come Back


By Thomas L. Friedman, Michael Mandelbaum

Picador

Copyright © 2011 Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-9511-5



CHAPTER 1

If You See Something, Say Something


This is a book about America that begins in China.

In September 2010, Tom attended the World Economic Forum's summer conference in Tianjin, China. Five years earlier, getting to Tianjin had involved a three-and-a-half-hour car ride from Beijing to a polluted, crowded Chinese version of Detroit, but things had changed. Now, to get to Tianjin, you head to the Beijing South Railway Station — an ultramodern flying saucer of a building with glass walls and an oval roof covered with 3,246 solar panels — buy a ticket from an electronic kiosk offering choices in Chinese and English, and board a world-class high-speed train that goes right to another roomy, modern train station in downtown Tianjin. Said to be the fastest in the world when it began operating in 2008, the Chinese bullet train covers 115 kilometers, or 72 miles, in a mere twenty-nine minutes.

The conference itself took place at the Tianjin Meijiang Convention and Exhibition Center — a massive, beautifully appointed structure, the like of which exists in few American cities. As if the convention center wasn't impressive enough, the conference's co-sponsors in Tianjin gave some facts and figures about it (www.tj-summerdavos.cn). They noted that it contained a total floor area of 230,000 square meters (almost 2.5 million square feet) and that "construction of the Meijiang Convention Center started on September 15, 2009, and was completed in May, 2010." Reading that line, Tom started counting on his fingers: Let's see — September, October, November, December, January ...

Eight months.

Returning home to Maryland from that trip, Tom was describing the Tianjin complex and how quickly it was built to Michael and his wife, Anne. At one point Anne asked: "Excuse me, Tom. Have you been to our subway stop lately?" We all live in Bethesda and often use the Washington Metrorail subway to get to work in downtown Washington, D.C. Tom had just been at the Bethesda station and knew exactly what Anne was talking about: The two short escalators had been under repair for nearly six months. While the one being fixed was closed, the other had to be shut off and converted into a two-way staircase. At rush hour, this was creating a huge mess. Everyone trying to get on or off the platform had to squeeze single file up and down one frozen escalator. It sometimes took ten minutes just to get out of the station. A sign on the closed escalator said that its repairs were part of a massive escalator "modernization" project.

What was taking this "modernization" project so long? We investigated. Cathy Asato, a spokeswoman for the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority, had told the Maryland Community News (October 20, 2010) that "the repairs were scheduled to take about six months and are on schedule. Mechanics need 10 to 12 weeks to fix each escalator."

A simple comparison made a startling point: It took China's Teda Construction Group thirty-two weeks to build a world-class convention center from the ground up — including giant escalators in every corner — and it was taking the Washington Metro crew twenty-four weeks to repair two tiny escalators of twenty-one steps each. We searched a little further and found that WTOP, a local news radio station, had interviewed the Metro interim general manager, Richard Sarles, on July 20, 2010. Sure, these escalators are old, he said, but "they have not been kept in a state of good repair. We're behind the curve on that, so we have to catch up ... Just last week, smoke began pouring out of the escalators at the Dupont Circle station during rush hour."

On November 14, 2010, The Washington Post ran a letter to the editor from Mark Thompson of Kensington, Maryland, who wrote:

I have noted with interest your reporting on the $225,000 study that Metro hired Vertical Transportation Excellence to conduct into the sorry state of the system's escalators and elevators ... I am sure that the study has merit. But as someone who has ridden Metro for more than 30 years, I can think of an easier way to assess the health of the escalators. For decades they ran silently and efficiently. But over the past several years — when the escalators are running — aging or ill-fitting parts have generated horrific noises that sound to me like a Tyrannosaurus Rex trapped in a tar pit screeching its dying screams.


The quote we found most disturbing, though, came from a Maryland Community News story about the long lines at rush hour caused by the seemingly endless Metro repairs: "'My impression, standing on line there, is people have sort of gotten used to it,' said Benjamin Ross, who lives in Bethesda and commutes every day from the downtown station."


The National Watercooler

People have sort of gotten used to it. Indeed, that sense of resignation, that sense that, well, this is just how things are in America today, that sense that America's best days are behind it and China's best days are ahead of it, have become the subject of watercooler, dinner-party, grocery-line, and classroom conversations all across America today. We hear the doubts from children, who haven't been to China. Tom took part in the September 2010 Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI) meeting in San Jose, California. As part of the program, there was a "School of the Future Design Competition," which called for junior high school students to design their own ideal green school. He met with the finalists on the last morning of the convention, and they talked about global trends. At one point, Tom asked them what they thought about China. A young blond-haired junior high school student, Isabelle Foster, from Old Lyme Middle School in Connecticut, remarked, "It seems like they have more ambition and will than we do." Tom asked her, "Where did you get that thought?" She couldn't really explain it, she said. She had never visited China. But it was just how she felt. It's in the air.

We heard the doubts about America from Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, in his angry reaction after the National Football League postponed for two days a game scheduled in Philadelphia between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Minnesota Vikings — because of a severe snowstorm. The NFL ordered the games postponed because it didn't want fans driving on icy, snow-covered roads. But Rendell saw it as an indicator of something more troubling — that Americans had gone soft. "It goes against everything that football is all about," Rendell said in an interview with the sports radio station 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia (December 27, 2010). "We've become a nation of wusses. The Chinese are kicking our butt in everything. If this was in China, do you think the Chinese would have called off the game? People would have been marching down to the stadium, they would have walked, and they would have been doing calculus on the way down."

We read the doubts in letters to the editor, such as this impassioned post by Eric R. on The New York Times comments page under a column Tom wrote about China (December 1, 2010):

We are nearly complete in our evolution from Lewis and Clark into Elmer Fudd and Yosemite Sam. We used to embrace challenges, endure privation, throttle our fear and strike out into the (unknown) wilderness. In this mode we rallied to span the continent with railroads, construct a national highway system, defeated monstrous dictators, cured polio and landed men on the moon. Now we text and put on makeup as we drive, spend more on video games than books, forswear exercise, demonize hunting, and are rapidly succumbing to obesity and diabetes. So much for the pioneering spirit that made us (once) the greatest nation on earth, one that others looked up to and called "exceptional."


Sometimes the doubts hit us where we least expect them. A few weeks after returning from China, Tom went to the White House to conduct an interview. He passed through the Secret Service checkpoint on Pennsylvania Avenue, and after putting his bags through the X-ray machine and collecting them, he grabbed the metal door handle to enter the White House driveway. The handle came off in his hand. "Oh, it does that sometimes," the Secret Service agent at the door said nonchalantly, as Tom tried to fit the wobbly handle back into the socket.

And often now we hear those doubts from visitors here — as when a neighbor in Bethesda mentions that over the years he has hired several young women from Germany to help with his child care, and they always remark on two things: how many squirrels there are in Washington, and how rutted the streets are. They just can't believe that America's capital would have such potholed streets.


Frustrated Optimists

So, do we buy the idea, increasingly popular in some circles, that Britain owned the nineteenth century, America dominated the twentieth century, and China will inevitably reign supreme in the twenty-first century — and that all you have to do is fly from Tianjin or Shanghai to Washington, D.C., and take the subway to know that?

No, we do not. And we have written this book to explain why no American, young or old, should resign himself or herself to that view either. The two of us are not pessimists when it comes to America and its future. We are optimists, but we are also frustrated. We are frustrated optimists. In our view, the two attitudes go together. We are optimists because American society, with its freewheeling spirit, its diversity of opinions and talents, its flexible economy, its work ethic and penchant for innovation, is in fact ideally suited to thrive in the tremendously challenging world we are living in. We are optimists because the American political and economic systems, when functioning properly, can harness the nation's talents and energy to meet the challenges the country faces. We are optimists because Americans have plenty of experience in doing big, hard things together. And we are optimists because our track record of national achievement gives ample grounds for believing we can overcome our present difficulties.

But that's also why we're frustrated. Optimism or pessimism about America's future cannot simply be a function of our capacity to do great things or our history of having done great things. It also has to be a function of our will actually to do those things again. So many Americans are doing great things today, but on a small scale. Philanthropy, volunteerism, individual initiative: they're all impressive, but what the country needs most is collective action on a large scale.

We cannot be pessimists about America when we know that it is home to so many creative, talented, hardworking people, but we cannot help but be frustrated when we discover how many of those people feel that our country is not educating the workforce they need, or admitting the energetic immigrants they seek, or investing in the infrastructure they require, or funding the research they envision, or putting in place the intelligent tax laws and incentives that our competitors have installed.

Hence the title of this opening chapter: "If you see something, say something." That is the mantra that the Department of Homeland Security plays over and over on loudspeakers in airports and railroad stations around the country. Well, we have seen and heard something, and millions of Americans have, too. What we've seen is not a suspicious package left under a stairwell. What we've seen is hiding in plain sight. We've seen something that poses a greater threat to our national security and well-being than al-Qaeda does. We've seen a country with enormous potential falling into disrepair, political disarray, and palpable discomfort about its present condition and future prospects.

This book is our way of saying something — about what is wrong, why things have gone wrong, and what we can and must do to make them right.

Why say it now, though, and why the urgency?

"Why now?" is easy to answer: because our country is in a slow decline, just slow enough for us to be able to pretend — or believe — that a decline is not taking place. As the ever-optimistic Timothy Shriver, chairman of the Special Olympics, son of Peace Corps founder Sargent Shriver, and nephew of President John F. Kennedy, responded when we told him about our book: "It's as though we just slip a little each year and shrug it off to circumstances beyond our control — an economic downturn here, a social problem there, the political mess this year. We're losing a step a day and no one's saying, Stop!" No doubt, Shriver added, most Americans "would still love to be the country of great ideals and achievements, but no one seems willing to pay the price." Or, as Jeffrey Immelt, the CEO of General Electric, put it to us: "What we lack in the U.S. today is the confidence that is generated by solving one big, hard problem — together." It has been a long time now since we did something big and hard together.

We will argue that this slow-motion decline has four broad causes. First, since the end of the Cold War, we, and especially our political leaders, have stopped starting each day by asking the two questions that are crucial for determining public policy: What world are we living in, and what exactly do we need to do to thrive in this world? The U.S. Air Force has a strategic doctrine originally designed by one of its officers, John Boyd, called the OODA loop. It stands for "observe, orient, decide, act." Boyd argued that when you are a fighter pilot, if your OODA loop is faster than the other guy's, you will always win the dogfight. Today, America's OODA loop is far too slow and often discombobulated. In American political discourse today, there is far too little observing, orienting, deciding, and acting and far too much shouting, asserting, dividing, and postponing. When the world gets really fast, the speed with which a country can effectively observe, orient, decide, and act matters more than ever.

Second, over the last twenty years, we as a country have failed to address some of our biggest problems — particularly education, deficits and debt, and energy and climate change — and now they have all worsened to a point where they cannot be ignored but they also cannot be effectively addressed without collective action and collective sacrifice. Third, to make matters worse, we have stopped investing in our country's traditional formula for greatness, a formula that goes back to the founding of the country. Fourth, as we will explain, we have not been able to fix our problems or reinvest in our strengths because our political system has become paralyzed and our system of values has suffered serious erosion. But finally, being optimists, we will offer our own strategy for overcoming these problems.

"Why the urgency?" is also easy to answer. In part the urgency stems from the fact that as a country we do not have the resources or the time to waste that we had twenty years ago, when our budget deficit was under control and all of our biggest challenges seemed at least manageable. In the last decade especially, we have spent so much of our time and energy — and the next generation's money — fighting terrorism and indulging ourselves with tax cuts and cheap credit that we now have no reserves. We are driving now without a bumper, without a spare tire, and with the gas gauge nearing empty. Should the market or Mother Nature make a sudden disruptive move in the wrong direction, we would not have the resources to shield ourselves from the worst effects, as we had in the past. Winston Churchill was fond of saying that "America will always do the right thing, but only after exhausting all other options." America simply doesn't have time anymore for exhausting any options other than the right ones.

Our sense of urgency also derives from the fact that our political system is not properly framing, let alone addressing, our ultimate challenge. Our goal should not be merely to solve America's debt and deficit problems. That is far too narrow. Coping with these problems is important — indeed necessary and urgent — but it is only a means to an end. The goal is for America to remain a great country. This means that while reducing our deficits, we must also invest in education, infrastructure, and research and development, as well as open our society more widely to talented immigrants and fix the regulations that govern our economy. Immigration, education, and sensible regulation are traditional ingredients of the American formula for greatness. They are more vital than ever if we hope to realize the full potential of the American people in the coming decades, to generate the resources to sustain our prosperity, and to remain the global leader that we have been and that the world needs us to be. We, the authors of this book, don't want simply to restore American solvency. We want to maintain American greatness. We are not green-eyeshade guys. We're Fourth of July guys.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from That Used To Be Us by Thomas L. Friedman, Michael Mandelbaum. Copyright © 2011 Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum. Excerpted by permission of Picador.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Thomas L. Friedman is an internationally renowned author, reporter, and columnist—the recipient of three Pulitzer Prizes and the author of five bestselling books, among them From Beirut to Jerusalem and The World Is Flat.

He was born in Minneapolis in 1953, and grew up in the middle-class Minneapolis suburb of St. Louis Park. He graduated from Brandeis University in 1975 with a degree in Mediterranean studies, attended St. Antony's College, Oxford, on a Marshall Scholarship, and received an M.Phil. degree in modern Middle East studies from Oxford.

After three years with United Press International, he joined The New York Times, where he has worked ever since as a reporter, correspondent, bureau chief, and columnist. At the Times, he has won three Pulitzer Prizes: in 1983 for international reporting (from Lebanon), in 1988 for international reporting (from Israel), and in 2002 for his columns after the September 11th attacks.

Friedman's first book, From Beirut to Jerusalem, won the National Book Award in 1989. His second book, The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization (1999), won the Overseas Press Club Award for best book on foreign policy in 2000. In 2002 FSG published a collection of his Pulitzer Prize-winning columns, along with a diary he kept after 9/11, as Longitudes and Attitudes: Exploring the World After September 11. His fourth book, The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century (2005) became a #1 New York Times bestseller and received the inaugural Financial Times/Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award in November 2005. A revised and expanded edition was published in hardcover in 2006 and in 2007. The World Is Flat has sold more than 4 million copies in thirty-seven languages.

In 2008 he brought out Hot, Flat, and Crowded, which was published in a revised edition a year later. His sixth book, That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back, co-written with Michael Mandelbaum, was published in September 2011.

Michael Mandelbaum, the Christian A. Herter Professor and Director of American Foreign Policy at The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, is the author or coauthor of twelve books, including The Ideas That Conquered the World.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Washington, D.C. area
Date of Birth:
July 20, 1953
Place of Birth:
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Education:
B.A. in Mediterranean Studies, Brandeis University, 1975; M.A. in Modern Middle East Studies, Oxford University, 1978
Website:
http://www.thomaslfriedman.com/

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That Used to Be Us 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 68 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The hardest part of reading this book was setting aside preconceived notions in order to fairly analyze what Friedman and Mandelbaum clearly lay out. The authors stick fairly close to centrist ideas though some political leanings come through in their choice of examples and descriptions. While the presentation of problems and solutions are the opinions of the authors, they come across in an honest, credible manner. Whether you agree or disagree with the content, there is no doubt this book is thought provoking and intellectually challenging especially if you are worried about the future of the US.
RolfDobelli More than 1 year ago
In this self-styled ¿wake-up call and pep talk,¿ award-winning journalist Thomas L. Friedman and professor and foreign policy expert Michael Mandelbaum offer their diagnosis of what they see as America¿s decline and set out some ideas to arrest its fall. In the first part, they largely succeed, detailing with illustrative, eye-opening stories and studies the depth of the problems Americans have ignored for too long: globalization, technology, national debt and climate change. However, they lose some steam in their prescriptive section where the challenges they outline seem to call for more than a pep talk ¿ although their ideas are worth considering and are great fodder for debates on real issues. Be prepared: Parts of this book make you want to cry; others make you want to scream; some pages do both. getAbstract suggests this bestseller to those in education, business and the public sector who want to understand the magnitude of America¿s challenges before rolling up their sleeves and getting to work on solutions.
fred1924 More than 1 year ago
Comments about Friedman & Mandelbaum’s book titled: “That used to be us” Much of the book describes the severe problems of our economy, our politics, industry and educational system. At the same time, much space is devoted to well known USA accomplishments in the past, and rightfully so. Space is also devoted to how often foreign people do a much better job today than Americans in areas such as education and economic growth, not to forget financial management. All true. The authors’ dearest wishes are for America to learn from their observations and in particular accept the fact that in their view of the modern world it would be essential for the USA to make the Government, much more of a real partner in business to become broadly competitive again. Clearly, that last part might cause very serious problems with those who believe that as little government as possible is preferable. Government should be supportive of a free market economy but not a competitor and player. Since Government assets and power greatly exceeds the business community’s resources it would not take long for us to end up like any other socialist Republic in the world. That’s not how we got to be who we are. Many people today, unfortunately, are not aware of it. Furthermore and unfortunately, the authors appear to be unqualified in matters of general physics and particularly in their attempt to make green energy and other hair-brained energy schemes basic elements of their recommendations to achieve a more promising future. In reality, it puts some of their energy related recommendations off the table. Plentiful and eventually cheap energy, from fossil fuels to nuclear and hydro and geothermal will take care of our future for at least the next 100 years. The lesson here is to let the energy industry keep us in a surplus energy condition and not allow the Government to waste billions of tax payer’s money on ill conceived green energy plots. As a graduate engineer I appreciate that neither carbon dioxide nor ocean acidification is likely to cause us problems for a very long time, if ever. The Chapter on education is the most challenging in my view and describes some of the currently active and innovative approaches to achieving serious improvements in the knowledge levels of teenagers and college students. Without achieving that, college level education is really a waste of money and time and will do nothing to make these youngsters more employable. What disappoints me in the book though is the lack of a common thread running through the issues that contributed to if not caused our current below-par condition as a nation of historically well-educated and clear thinking Americans. In my opinion that thread is our cultural demise during the past 60 years. Ask yourself, where is the spirit of hard work, at a job or in school? Where is the famous American habit of shaking hands on a deal without a 50 page legal document to back it up? Why is it that so few people really know the basics of our national history? This deplorable condition allows schools to teach that American culture is no better or worse than anyone else’s. Which is a preposterous affront to teach, of course, but indicative of our problems. In my view these are some of the aspects that caused our current political, educational and economic condition. The authors recognize our practical national problem and they believe, notwithstanding the contrary evidence, that we still have enough guts, skills, drive, imagination and assets to get us out of this box to a better future. I hope they are right. Frankly, I am not so sure, for the simple reason that the cultural deficiencies at the root of our problem are also the hardest and most challenging aspects of our national existence to repair. The book closes on a positive note but at the same time may mislead us in thinking that our challenge is just “another job” we have to perform to be back in shape again soon instead of the existential attempt it really is at recapturing our critical and unique national dynamics of exceptionalism and the world’s “least offensive policeman”. Frederik Engel 3/4/2012
Jules3 More than 1 year ago
Normally when I read books like this I am snoozing halfway through but this one kept my attention. This book covers both our weaknesses and our strengths but this country is quickly slipping while our political leaders are basically ineffective. America has been able to do great things when our backs are against the wall but we need to wake up...NOW!!! Read this and get inspired!!!
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Sits down and waits
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Im quitting rp. Btw...should i get this book? It sounds really good..
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It's fareasier to dissect and analyze Humpty's fall from grace than to put him back together again. The book is a great analysis, but solutions?? Not so much.
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