A country that longs for the past is poorly suited to address the trends that are inevitably shaping the future. The “make America great” folks are living a fantasy and those who are most clueless are being misled by others willing to perpetuate this illusion for personal gain. The mantra sounds fine, but it translates as international isolationism and internal policies that create rather than curb inequities. This promotion of yesterday is even less defensible when it works to benefit certain individuals at the expense of others. This is the point at which perpetuating fantasies is immoral.
Here are the trends I see as important.
- Growing world-wide population.
- Aging populations in most countries
- Climate change
- Advances in technology are replacing many jobs at present wages
- Globalization – interdependence of economies
Many of these trends are inconvenient for a country that has long had great advantages, but the trends cannot be ignored. My life experiences have been mainly as an educator heavily focused on technology and I tend to see the role both of these factors play as both responsible for both problems (if you believe the U.S. inherently deserves special advantages) and solutions. Technology ignores the boundaries of distance and borders. Technology promotes educational experiences and allows talented and motivated individuals no matter where they are located to perform work with equal skill and often at a lower cost. Other countries have what might be described as an advantage in that merit is often promoted over equity in education, but the consequence is that those who make it through such systems are quite competitive. Isolation will not discourage such practices and will not lessen the short-term economic disadvantages.
I present the trends I see without thorough analysis. I see the list as fact based, but complex and without obvious solutions. The one point these facts do point to is the need to be realistic about the need for change. Focusing on coal or oil and not renewable energy seems unproductive. Failing to address health care realities with an aging population seems foolish. Withholding resources from education when future work requires more and more diverse skills seems short sighted.
These are not challenges without opportunities. What is wrong with more research and more training and more jobs in health care or renewable energy? What is wrong with investing more in educational experiences that prepare learners for a more sophisticated world and that provide on-going experiences suited to a far more rapid pace of change? What is wrong with an approach, probably government moderated, that allows health care for all? What is wrong with acknowledging that life in this country does not allow all to have an equal chance at success and doing something about it?