Thinking for a Living: Education and the Wealth of Nations

Thinking for a Living: Education and the Wealth of Nations

Thinking for a Living: Education and the Wealth of Nations

Thinking for a Living: Education and the Wealth of Nations


Why should employers pay American workers much more to work far fewer hours a year than the competition? They won't- unless Americans know more and can do more than the workers with whom they compete. Thinking for a Living is the first book to address head-on the issue of the appalling mismatch between what our economy needs and what our educational institutions actually provide. A massive imbalance between the resources available for the education of our managerial, technical, and professional workers on the one hand, and our line workers on the other, threatens our economic survival, according to Marshall and Tucker. The book provides a blueprint for the radical reconstruction of our schools, following muchthe same principles that allowed some of America's leading industrial organizations to rescue themselves from the brink of ruin by greatly raising productivity without increasing costs. But education, the authors point out, is far more than schooling. All the major functions of our society must function as integrated learning systems. This book spells out how families, communities, and, most of all, businesses can contribute to the effectiveness of our most valuable resource: people. The American educational system is designed to meet the manpower needs of a bygone era. If America is to survive in the infinitely more demanding economic environment of the next century, we must maximize the skills of our work force. Our economic policies will fail- and our standard of living will fall- unless they are linked to an aggressive education policy that results in unprecedented levels of performance.


For much of this century, and indeed, right up to the present, American enterprise has been organized on the principle that most of us do not need to know much to do the work that has to be done. This system may have worked brilliantly for us until recently, but it will do so no longer.

The future now belongs to societies that organize themselves for learning. What we know and can do holds the key to economic progress, just as command of natural resources once did. Everything depends on what firms can learn from and teach to their customers and suppliers, on what countries can learn from one another, on what workers can learn from each other and the work they do, on the learning environment that families provide, and, of course, on what we learn in school. More than ever before, nations that want high incomes and full employment must develop policies that emphasize the acquisition of knowledge and skills by everyone, not just a select few. The prize will go to those countries that are organized as national learning system, and where all institutions are organized to learn and to act on what they learn.

Our most formidable competitors know this. Many newly industrialized countries know it and are vaulting forward as a result. But the United States does not. Because this country continues to operate on the premise that, for the country to be successful, only a few need to know or be able to do very much, we are poised on the precipice of a steep decline in national income, with all that this implies for our material well-being and the stability of our society.

Perhaps we are blinded by our seeming good fortune. Through the 1980s, America appeared to have every reason to rest on its laurels. We have the highest . . .

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