A bouncing ball is a metaphor for change. Much has changed in the US over the last few years, and it appears to me that Americans are not too fond of change. Change can be scary and upsetting, but it also represents opportunity. Take globalization and outsourcing. Much has been said and written about these subjects, often with a negative connotation. They certainly challenge the "status quo", but they should also stimulate creative thinking from US entrepreneurs.
Perhaps the US has outlived its position as a unique refuge for all who want to find opportunities for a better economic future, for the escape from repression of the political and religious variety and, generally, for a haven for anyone seeking self-actualization. While we have accepted waves of immigrants over the last 200 years we have also grown a large population of under-educated adults, ill prepared to deal with the needs of the 21st century.
Jobs are being outsourced for two main reasons: lower costs and skilled workers. Lowering costs may require a huge effort given our infrastructure, but we can do something faster to produce the skilled workers we may need for the jobs that will replace the outsourced ones.
Currently there seems to be an expectation that all outsourced jobs are going to be replaced by equally rewarding jobs. That is patently not happening. More and more people are being sucked into dead-end poor paying, unrewarding service jobs. In order to reverse that trend we have to turn to education. The task will not be easy considering the challenges.
I just read that in the city of Hartford, CT, four out of ten adults cannot read a bus schedule or fill out a job application. This mind-boggling ratio is being used promote the theory that bi-lingual education will cure the ills of illiteracy. But bi-lingual education has become a plague on the educational system as an appeasement to political imperatives at the expense of educational ones.
In order for industry to create new jobs it needs a skilled labor pool. In order to form a skilled labor pool we need to invest in education delivered by a different system than the one we are currently relying on. A few people are speaking up on the subject, most notably Bill Gates, warning us that time is running out to take action and change the trends that have already taken hold. Bill Gates' most "radical" suggestion is that the High School curriculum and its aims must be replaced by a new model that takes into account the job market's needs of the new millennium. Accountability and a rigorous program of study must replace the current "pass them through the system" approach.
The approach is more revolutionary than evolutionary and students will be left behind if they cannot "hack it". That may be unfortunate, but it will be necessary. I for one still remember when Sputnik was launched and the "fear" was spawned that the US would become second rate to the dreaded communists. Sputnik was a wakeup call that made the teaching and the pursuit of science a top priority in our educational system.