William J. Daughton, chair of engineering management and systems engineering, reviewed Thomas Friedman’s book The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century for the American Society for Engineering Management’s Engineering Management Journal. Friedman’s book, Daughton writes in his December 2005 review, “brings into focus trends and events that most readers would recognize but perhaps have not thought about in the larger context of flattening the world.”
Of particular interest to readers involved in engineering and science education in the U.S. should be the section entitled The Quiet Crisis. The premise is that the erosion of the scientific and engineering base in the U.S. is taking us on a steady path toward losing our preeminent position as innovators of new products, services, and companies. It is “quiet” both because it is not a single, spectacular event that grabs headlines and because the erosion has not yet reached a critical point. Perhaps most disturbing is the set of examples describing what is happening in the rest of the world relative to the focus on engineering and science. My favorite quote in the book comes from this section and is one describing the focus of young people in China. Friedman says “In China today, Bill Gates is Britney Spears. In America today, Britney Spears is Britney Spears – and that is our problem.” Ouch!
… If there are any points to quibble with in this book it would be the tendency to rehash examples multiple times and the occasional lapse into political rhetoric. Many of the supporting examples are well known and somewhat over used. … A few sections were overly preachy in terms of political solutions, and in some ways detracted from the valuable message of the book. Despite these shortcomings, it is a worthwhile read.