If you've wondered what Lou Gerstner has been doing since 2003 when he retired as CEO and Chairman of IBM, the answer is researching education. (Oh, in his spare time he is on about a dozen for-profit and non-profit boards and a partner in the Carlyle Group.) If you want to spend an absolutely scary hour, listen to Gerstner, Michael Porter of Harvard, Jim McNerney of Boeing, Craig Barrett of Intel, and Deborah Wince-Smith of something called the Council on Competitiveness (compete.org) try to answer the question, "What is hurting U.S. competitiveness in the global marketplace?"
The venue is a U.S. Department of Commerce event called 2008 National Summit on American Competitiveness. The segment has replayed on C-Span a few times since it was held on May 22 and supposedly will be archived on the Department of Commerce web site noted above.
The major answer to the question "What is hurting U.S. competitiveness most in the global marketplace?" is not too much illegal and too little H-1B immigration into the U.S., or other countries' allegedly restrictive trade regulations, or even the U.S.'s own litigious nature. The answer, according to Gerstner, is an almost total collapse of the U.S. K-12 education system. For example, 70 percent of high school students in some cities are taught by teachers not certified in the subject they are teaching. It would be like getting open heart surgery from a dermatologist. Gerstner has hundreds of other similar statistics, as well as some solutions. The nut of the problem: Teachers aren't treated as or paid as professionals.
By the way, I have a problem with the basic premise of the conference title, that the U.S. must somehow "beat" the rest of the world. Here on Cape Cod, we are reminded every 12.5 hours (I believe that time period is true on most but not all coasts around the world) that the tide raises my rowboat as much as Bill Koch's 12-meter yacht. But there are a lot of other reasons -- like a truly participatory democratic government and quality of life -- why the problems Gerstner has identified need to be solved.
Sorry for the rant, but as an IT manager, this affects you if you are trying to staff up or keep staffers highly trained and motivated (or even to keep them living in your area so they can work for you). And as an IT staffer, this affects you as you try to keep up your professional credits and stay on the cutting edge of technology.
As always, comments are welcome.