Here are some thoughts about Global Competitiveness from two of today's prominent education writers. The view they advocate is, from what I can see, not the mainstream norm.
from "Against ‘Competitiveness’
Why good teachers aren't thinking about the global economy."
By Alfie Kohn (edweek, 9-19-07)
"What if we just ignored the status of students in other countries? That wouldn’t be especially neighborly, but at least we wouldn’t be viewing the gains of children in other lands as a troubling development. Better yet, rather than defending whatever policies will ostensibly help our graduates 'compete,' we could make decisions on the basis of what will help them collaborate effectively. Educators, too, might think in terms of working with—and learning from—their counterparts in other countries.
Even beyond the moral justification for transcending reflexive rivalry, Janet Swenson at Michigan State University points out that 'we’ll all benefit from the best education we can provide to every child on the face of this planet.' She asks: 'Do you care if it’s a child in Africa who finds a cure for cancer rather than a child in your country?'
It took me a while to realize that at the core of the current 'tougher standards' movement is a worldview characterized by artificial scarcity—along with the assumption that schooling is ultimately about economic outcomes. A more reasonable and humane perspective is always hard to come by when we’re told that we’re in a race. The prospects for critical thought are particularly bleak if the race never ends.
Sadder still, the same competitive mind-set shows up as district is pitted against district, school against school, student against student. Several years ago, one superintendent in the Northeast vowed that his city’s test scores would “never be last again” in his state. Like so many others, he was confusing higher scores with better learning. But this appalling statement also implied that his students didn’t have to improve; as long as kids in another community fared even more poorly, he would be satisfied. Such a position is not only intellectually indefensible (because of its focus on relative performance) but also morally bankrupt (because of its indifference to the welfare of children in other places).
Almost any policy, it seems, no matter how harmful, can be rationalized in the name of 'competitiveness' by politicians and corporate executives, or by journalists whose imaginations are flatter than the world about which they write. But educators ought to aim higher. Our loyalty, after all, is not to corporations but to children. Our chief concern—our 'bottom line,' if you must—is not victory for some but learning for all." (Kohn, edweek, 9-19-07)
The whole article: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2007/09/19/04kohn.h27.html
Here's Stephanie Pace Marshall (from Summer Online Educational Leadership, "Two Takes on Whole"):
"Reports are coming out now that focus on the need for students in science, technology, engineering, and math, but unfortunately the focus is on 'How can we make sure U.S. kids are as competitive as kids in India, China, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, and Singapore?' These concerns are driven by competition. You don't hear a lot of conversations about what we're going to do in math and science so that our kids have the tools to advance the human condition. I would submit to you that the primary grounding should be advancing the human condition. When that's the focus of your scientific, mathematical, and technological work, you're going to have an economic driver because advancing the human condition takes an enormous amount of creativity, invention, and imagination.
What has turned off so many kids—especially girls—to science, engineering, and technology is that we've got to be competitive, we've got to make money. We had to beat the Russians during the Cold War. Now, we have to beat the Indians and the Chinese. We should step back and ask, Why are we trying to beat them?" ("Two Takes on Whole" by Amy M. Azzam, Summer Online Educational Leadership, now archived.)
How do people on CR2.0 feel about these perspectives?