President Obama gave a speech about education, innovation & the economy at the Hudson Valley Community College on Monday, September 21. In this speech, he said “a nation that out-educates us will out-compete us later”.
We concur. This is why we explore an area in which America has begun losing its traditional leadership due to an inherent weakness in its education system.
President Obama was speaking about the need for education in Science & Technology. Many other leaders, educationists and TV commentators have lamented the fact that American students do not pursue higher education in physical sciences. That is why America’s elite universities are packed by international students, especially Chinese & Indian.
We would respectfully point out that it has always been so. Go back to the 1930s. Europe was engulfed in turmoil. This led to an exodus of scientific talent from Germany and Eastern Europe to America. America became the world leader in science due to this immigration. Just think of names, Einstein, Fermi, John Von Neumann. It is ironic that these refugees from Germany, Italy and Eastern Europe helped build the Atom Bomb which finally ended World War II.
America can easily repeat this process today. It can create a new immigration category by which very talented foreign students can get immigrant status after obtaining a Ph.D. in Science from an American University and after getting a job in America. The best young brains in the world would line up for this program and America’s problem would be solved. American technology companies would again find great talent at home rather than hunt for it in Asia.
Liberal Arts has been a core American strength. America was the first country to build a mass market. In this process, America invented Advertising and Product Marketing. These fields created high paying jobs for liberal arts majors in America.
We are beginning to see these All-American jobs go to countries like India. GM has opened a design center in India. Advertising agencies are sending some of their creative work to India. This process may have begun due to cheaper wage costs but its increasing appeal comes from a recognition that people in India have an inherent advantage in these fields.
American education suffers from an intrinsic and crucial disadvantage. It is insular. An American student learns American History and aspects of European History. An American student primarily knows English with some courses in French or other European languages. An American student learns about Christianity and Judaism. America and to a smaller extent Europe is the universe for the typical American student.
Today, the older and historically successful areas of the world are emerging from their slumber. China, India are the obvious examples. Middle East is waking up, its people are demanding respect and the consuming power of that region is growing. Asian countries like Indonesia and Vietnam are emerging from their historical stupor.
At the same time, global companies are realizing that they need to integrate their message, their products, their marketing to fit a multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-religious world. It is neither desirable nor economical to create distinct campaigns for different regions. But to do so, they need creative people who are at ease in multiple cultures, languages and religions.
Where can you find a critical mass of such talent? Not in insular America. But in multi-religious, multi-lingual and multi-cultural India. An Indian student grows up learning 2 or 3 languages. In addition to Hinduism, an Indian student grows up learning about Buddhism, Christianity, Islam & Sikhism (being alphabetically correct). India has been a land of immigrants since the beginning of Indian culture.
America is geographically isolated. India is not. As Bill Marriott said in a TV interview, you can reach 2.5 billion people with a six hour flight from Mumbai. And these 2.5 billion people are not Christian or Jewish, the main areas of comfort for American students.
The American student knows Shakespeare. The Indian student knows Shakespeare and Kalidas, Mirza Ghalib. The American student knows Jesus and Moses. The Indian student knows Jesus, Moses and Shri Krishna, Gautam Buddha. The American Student knows Romeo & Juliet. The Indian student knows Romeo & Juliet and Laila-Majnu, Heer Ranjha, Salim Anarkali. The American student knows Hollywood. The Indian student knows Hollywood and Bollywood. And Bollywood itself draws in talent and ideas from all over the world, while Hollywood is insular.
In other words, the Indian student knows much of the American student knows but the American student knows very little of what the Indian student knows. This was unimportant 20 years ago when America was the only meaningful mass market. It will be extremely important 20 years from today when Chinese, Indian, Asian, Middle Eastern, South American markets become as big as American and European markets.
This we believe is the biggest challenge facing American education and jobs for tomorrow’s American adults.
As an example of an ad that can run in multiple cultures, look at the Lenovo ad below.
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