'Average Is Officially Over'

Judy Hartnett's picture
Thursday, November 17, 2011

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman and National Center of Education and the Economy President Marc Tucker painted a bleak picture of America's future at a promotional event in Washington, D.C., yesterday.

"Average is officially over," declared Friedman, who was promoting his new book That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back.

"We are in the worst kind of decline—a slow decline," he said. "It's just slow enough for us to think that we're not in a decline, or that it's reversible."

Friedman said the "connected" world he described in his 2005 book The World Is Flat has become "hyperconnected."

"When I was out saying the world is flat, Facebook wasn't in it, Twitter was still a sound, the cloud was still in the sky, 4G was a parking place, LinkedIn was a prison, and, for most people, Skype was a typo," he said. "That all happened in six years."

As technology advances, jobs are being outsourced and automated. People without a college education or technical skills are being increasingly squeezed out of the jobs market, Friedman said. America needs to rapidly educate its lowest-performing students.

"We have so many people in our urban centers who are way below average. In a world where middle jobs have been crushed, there is nothing for them," Friedman said. "If you do not have a high school degree that allows you to get through college without significant remediation, there is literally nothing for you."

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