MSNBC/NYT wrote recently about how the two presidential candidates view innovation and the role of government therein.
One candidate believes in market forces and trusts the capitalistic system to focus on and do the right thing. The other candidate wishes to hedge that bet with a more deterministic approach to have the government lay the groundwork and build the foundation.
On principle, I'm inclined to support the former (believing that governments generally don't do well thinking strategically), and allow vision and strategy to be set by those closer to the action and the opportunities, and more able to actually make change happen.
But there are two factors are making me question my view.
- The mechanical/manufacturing nature of the education system. It aspires to the lowest common denominator outcome, where success is based on the number of units (students) produced (graduated) with minimal view to the quality of the finished product or the quality of the production process. The talent pool coming into the work force is ever weaker...
- The reality of instant information conveyance, which means that everyone (industry, commercial entities, schools, etc.) must focus on their image, perception and performance today vs. their efforts to create potential value that will only be seen in the future.
The result of these two forces is dastardly. First - the machine is not producing effective raw materials for the commercial/industrial world. Students need more remediation now when they leave any school system than ever before and obviously at much higher cost. That cuts into the cost of doing business at every stage.
Second, with the obsession to make sure they look good now in front of the press and analysts that dictate their perception (and in large part their destiny), there is ever more pressure on the commercial world to produce now and to hell with the future. Cynically I would imagine most of the leaders of the commercial world recognize that their half-life is so brief that the only success that matters is the quarter they're in and the one to come.
In this type of world, it seems naive to put the future in the hands of organizations that simply don't have the luxury to conceive of a world beyond the next six months. How will they ever trade off investments that we need to enable innovation for decades to come against tactics that create immediate impact??
But I'm still worried about whether the government has the ability and capacity to effectively accomplish this mission. I wonder if this is the ideal opportunity to create a public-private-partnership (PPP) who is chartered with the goal of accomplishing this, and given the government's commitment that it (government) will adhere to the findings, recommendations, and investments that the PPP proposes?