So Where Do We Go From Here?

Last Updated Sep 19, 2008 11:02 AM EDT

Massive bailouts. Federal guarantees. Increased regulatory oversight of the financial industry. Global financial coordination between governments. Bans on short selling. All these are in play to restore confidence in the US economy and its financial institutions.

And they may work short term. But financial reform doesn't get at an even greater need facing the country: educational reform, in the face of our decreasing competitiveness in the global economy.

That's the message from Todd Pittinsky, who teaches public policy at Harvard's Kennedy School. Writing in the Christian Science Monitor, Pittinsky charges that many Americans and political leaders have not grasped the fact that the United States is losing its economic and technology leadership to a number of other countries, countries that have overhauled their educational systems. "Suddenly, the signs are all over," he writes. "From Indian tech support to Finnish cellphones to Japanese hybrid cars."

What's most distressing, he says, is the subject of American competitiveness is all but missing from the presidential campaign.

"Both candidates should be articulating a clear direction â€" excellence in math, science, and engineering education at all levels â€" and specifying the resources they will dedicate to that goal. They do not need to design specific programs; they do need to show strong support for others who come up with such programs. Unfortunately, with vast military spending, entitlements, infrastructure investments, and corporate bailouts looming, neither Senator Obama nor Senator McCain is sticking up for serious money to repair our intangible but critical infrastructure of math, science, and engineering education."
Do you think eroding American competitiveness -- if it exists -- needs the same sense of urgency we are applying to fix our financial meltdown?

  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.