Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Outsourcing. Everything?

A funny thing struck me tonight as I was getting undressed (ladies, take it easy--I'm happily married). I happened to look at the tag on my sport coat: Made in India.  And it got me wondering, "How much of my clothes are made in other countries?"  And, so,with my wardrobe today, I dissected where my clothes were made.  Know what I found?
sport coat: India
dress shirt: Indonesia
slacks: Hecho en Mexico
dress shoes: Brazil
belt: proudly made in China
tie: Made in the USA!!!! (Horray!!)  Except it was made with imported silk.*sigh*
 **Full disclosure--I did not inspect my socks--I wasn't going in there without being prepared for WWIII, and since the house was a bit cool when I got home, I did not go so far as to evaluate the country in which my skivvies are made.  However, I would be surprised to find anything here that was drastically different than the rest of my attire for today, which by the way, is not top-of-the-line clothing.  This outfit is from an average, every day line of dress clothes that can be found in most any department store.**

And then, I shuddered. Not from the chill in the air and me being as close as I could be to wearing my birthday suit in November, but because for some reason, I didn't like the idea that everything I was wearing was manufactured in another country.  When unemployment is so high in our country, but so much of what we buy is made elsewhere.

I understand Dan Pink's argument of the most basic, left-brained, automated tasks being left to laborers who are less skilled than others and that we should be educating students to be more big-picture, creative thinkers.  And I am all for that.  But what if our country becomes so dependent on other countries for all of the goods we purchase?  I mean, what if the production and manufacturing of all the goods we buy is outsourced to other lower wage countries.  All of it.  What happens?

Now, I'm not an economist (even though I did play one on TV); nor am I versed in the way of world currency, trade, GDP's and imports/exports (even after staying at a Holiday Inn Express last night).  So, even if the scenario above couldn't truly happen, then just consider this nothing more than a thought experiment.  How would your life be different if everything you bought, with perhaps the exception of certain foods--produce for example--was manufactured, assembled, produced, or processed in other countries.  Would that be a bad thing?  Would that create more of a job crisis than we have now?  Would we have more unskilled in the workforce looking for ways to help their families pay their bills? 

Or, would this open up more opportunities for our society to spend time and effort looking for the flavored toppings to place on the vanilla ice cream that is the global marketplace?  Would outsourcing everything allow us to teach our citizens the right-brained tasks of finding the value-added features in this worldwide economy and allow other, more routine jobs, to be sent elsewhere?

I guess the only thing I know is that I'm not smart enough to have any of those answers.  And if I did, I would still want to make sure my Brazilian-made shoes, and Chinese-made belt looked good, even if I'm spending my time getting undressed and being cold while looking at the tags on my clothes.

Friday, February 12, 2010


For some reason I just realized that my job isn't about technology.  Nor is it about education, per se.  Its really about change.  I guess on a subconscious level, I knew this, but I just now verbalized it for the first time.  My job is really about getting educators, and thereby education, to change.  The technology and instructional coaching that I give teachers isn't really about the technology or the instructional advice.  Those are just the mediums to getting to the bigger picture--that the institution we call education must change.  We are a 100-year-old institution that has only remotely changed in that time, although the rest of the developed world has changed constantly and in an on-going fashion. 
Specifically thinking about change, I think I spend most of my time trying to convince our staff (and really anyone who will listen) that there is a level of urgency that we must adopt if we wish not to fall further behind other nations out-distancing us with their levels of education.  I know it is a systemic problem as well, as other countries value teachers, and education in general, more than we do.  As one example, in some countries teachers are given up to 25 hours of professional development time each week to home their skills and practice their lessons.  In other places, teachers are paid on the same level as engineers (while I know no one enters the profession for money, it helps to attract the best and brightest when the pay scale is high).
So, knowing these facts and realizing that my job isn't about technology and teaching as much as it is about change, maybe I should make sure that I'm sending this message to more than just teachers and administrators as well.  I think our policymakers should be getting this message as well.  I wonder if they are?