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on October 15, 2017
Really insightful read with some critical recommendations that will require a tremendous amount of political will - but likely necessary to enable continued success, growth, development, and diversification in a globalized world.
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on June 1, 2013
I will admit from the start that I am a big fan of Thomas Friedman. I believe that he has an incredible perspective on current trends that affect all of us and projects that perspective into the future. This book continues that "tradition" and we ignore its' contents and messages at our own peril.

Having worked in higher education for over 30 years and now in k-12, I have seen the way our education system, in general, fails to prepare students for the 21st century. We are still using, for the most part, an outdated model that is an industry unto itself. Without a world class education system, how can we compete in the world that Friedman and Mandelbaum describe?

The authors paint a somewhat gloomy picture of America's future that can only be solved by radical change from the way we are doing things. They have done a good job of summarizing the problems we face because of our broken government, backwards education system and general collective failure of our citizenry to demand better. While there is nothing here that any observant citizen doesn't already suspect, their ability to succinctly define the issues and possible solutions is what makes this book notable.

This book should be required reading for every high school and college student because they are the ones who have the opportunity to fix the mess that we have left for them.
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on April 10, 2013
I have always enjoyed Thomas Freedman's columns in the NY Times, so I was not surprised by the material presented in his book with Michael Mandelbaum. In fact, I was somewhat bored by the warmed over sentiments voiced in the first several score of pages in this book. Later, the authors present a wealth of statistical information, buttressed by many interviews with some economic and business leaders, concerning what we are not doing correctly in this country and what we need to rectify the present situation. I was alternately buoyed up by the myriad of creative scientific and business people cited in the book, yet ultimately depressed by the authors' condemnation of our lack of will to reverse and obvious social decline. Their remedy, expressed in the last part of the book -- that we should be more creative and make many more start ups and that unemployment can be overcome by everyone starting new businesses -- may have some merit but is hardly likely to be realized. I left the book feeling somewhat pessimistic, not only because of the aforementioned unrealizable goals cited by the authors but because I think that that they, too, are pessimistic and that they concluded the book by trying to put a good face on a bad situation. It is a worthwhile book, interesting but probably with a limited shelf life, as social issues have a way of becoming old very fast.
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on August 11, 2014
This was my second read of this book. I've read all of Friedman's books and this one tops my list of favorites, just nudging out "Hot Flat and Crowded". It's frustrating to read about; the causes of the recent financial crisis- the corporate and individual greed; the impediments to improving education; and America’s acceptance of the status quo. Case in point; the example of China building a 230,00 sq ft state of the art convention center in 8-months, while 2-escalators at a Bethesda Metro stop have been under repair for 6-months. There are more examples like it throughout the book. To be fair, the authors do provide many examples of what America does right and they are spot on. There are however other issues that need to be addressed.
I strongly recommend this book and suggest that readers form discussion groups to address the many issues the authors present and what we can do to get back on track.
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on October 11, 2014
This book does an exceptional job of summing up our current situation but the cures it prescribes seem decades away, if possible at all. Friedman and Mandelbaum assume that the American people will soon grasp the nature of our problem and act. As a liberal who has always lived in red states, I am skeptical that enough people will comprehend the danger before it becomes a crisis. With luck, we will be able to deal with the crisis and emerge the way the authors envision but that is a rather large "if".
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on March 24, 2016
Hard to put down and the content is hard to swallow because it is so true. It holds
up a mirror to all of us. A must read if you truly care about where we were, where we
are now, and where we should be heading but may not be.
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on July 6, 2016
Some people wrote mixed or poor reviews but I think they didn't like the economics mixed in with environmental issues. The bottom line is in the Summer of 2016, America needs to wake up and figure out that we didn't lose jobs to China or Mexico but to Technology. The book was spot on yet had the academic backing to give it credibility.
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on October 17, 2011
I just finished this book and agree with many of its conclusions.
Our need to improve our education system is obvious and he points out some innovative programs that could be used as models. I like it because it focuses on where the problems lie - good teachers, good principals and involved parents. It's not about money, but execution. We spend plenty, but we don't get the return we are paying for.
The section about workers and work (really education) was fine but suggested something I find a bit disturbing. The authors think that we all need to be super innovative, ever learning and relearning worker bees that have to accept the reality that they are competing with everyone in the world. Well, I agree that many of us are competing with everyone in the world, I am just not sure that participating in that "game" is so good for workers. What it says is that you will work away your weekends, go to every class (frequently at your expense) and be constantly alert to new opportunities to make more money for your employer. While this sound great if you are a big corporate employer, it sounds not so great for the worker bees who only have a few hundred weekends to give while they are young and healthy. They imply we should donate them so we can be "competitive" That might well be the world we live in, but if we want to be anything other than relative slaves to our employers we better get to working on changing that circumstance.
His discussion about infrastructure and R&D spending seems obvious, but to large swaths of the American public, it isn't. This is a recipe for disaster as he points out. Fixing it will probably require some sort of huge crisis so that those who oppose any government spending on anything but tax cuts are discredited.
I also like that he indicated that our entitlement programs need to be modified so they don't break the bank. They ignored something almost entirely and that is the desperate need to control the inflation in healthcare costs. If that inflation isn't controlled Medicare will collapse. Obviously, this inflation (and not raising taxes) is ballooning the federal deficit to unsustainable levels.
His solutions seemed lacking. A third party Presidential candidate is nowhere in site for foreseeable future. It is much more likely that a giant social movement or another financial crisis will be the impetus to change direction. That is the sad reality, because we should not need that to change course. We should do it because our elected officials have the desire, will, and power to push constructive collective action. The good news is is that a crisis is rarely far away and big social movements seem to spring up often these days. Witness the Arab Spring and the Occupy Wall Street movements.
Overall, a decent description of our problems, but a little thin on solutions
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on May 27, 2017
Pretty informative read, well thought out, you'll get through it quick too, reads fast.
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on December 27, 2011
Not as optimistic as Friedman's other books (perhaps the pessimism is Mandelbaum's contribution here!) but an excellent read nonetheless. Really lays out, in very straightforward terms, how our politics and the actions of both political parties has failed us. Although I disagree with the idea of a third party being a solution, both parties need to get their act together and this book lays out how and why it should be done.
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