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MoreLIP: Time Flies when You're Having Fun

11/16/2009 — George Lipper, Development Capital Networks


Key the trombones!

Awaken the spirit!

It's been a long way baby. And a lot of change along the way. Yesterday's changes pale in comparison to the speed of change we’re experiencing today. The transformation represents both a challenge and an opportunity. A world made smaller by technological innovation is also a world made more competitive. It intrudes on what we thought we knew. Examples abound:

The newspaper business has been shrinking rapidly. Circulation figures are horrifying. The main source from which our democracy drew information requisite for self-governance now seems given over to shouting tea parties, bumper stickers, and voices from the wings.

Right behind it comes a wave of changes in the book publishing industry as digitization of catalogs, e-books, and print exists ‘on demand.’ And thousands more jobs disappear.

Last week Grant Thornton published a two year study, "A wake-up call for America," in which we learned that the number of public companies listed on U.S. exchanges has dropped by more than 22% since 1991, losing ground to exchanges in China, London, Italy, Tokyo, Toronto, Australia and Germany, where listings continue to increase, with an estimated possible loss of 22 million U.S. jobs and points to a “wholesale erosion” of the infrastructure that supports IPOs.

Economists, trained to dissect (but not to solve) our jobless recovery, anticipate that the majority of all jobs lost during the economic downturn likely will not return at all.

The auto and construction industries helped lead the nation out of past recessions. But the carnage among Detroit's automakers and the surplus of new and foreclosed homes and empty commercial properties make it unlikely these two industries will be engines of growth anytime soon. The job market is caught in a vicious circle: Without more jobs, U.S. consumers will have a hard time increasing their spending; but without that spending, businesses might see little reason to start hiring.

The pace of change becomes a blur. Our willingness and ability to adapt becomes critical. And significant changes in our education system rises to the top of the list of musts.

With drop-out rates exceeding 50% in many urban areas; with too many teachers giving higher priority to job protection than student achievement; with little discipline in classrooms and, most importantly, disgracefully little participation among parents, we drift too close to that slippery slope by which America’s education system may not catch up.

I was encouraged Sunday watching a Meet the Press segment in which Education Chairman Arne Duncan, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Al Sharpton shared their bi-partison efforts to forthrightly deal with those intractable obstructions, and their progress to date. Duncan controls $4.3 B in stimulus funds with which is has launched a 'Race to the Top' competition among the states to deal with such barriers. You can read the transcripts at its web site.

It's likely I'm preaching to the choir in this era of controlled partisanship, exaggerated by seriously sick state budgets. But if we do not find the way to dramatically change our education system, the next 76 will not be so interesting.