Third-Grade Fractions

via China, Twitter and 20-Year-Olds vs. the Pyramids – NYTimes.com.

Anyone who’s long followed the Middle East knows that the six most dangerous words after any cataclysmic event in this region are: “Things will never be the same.” After all, this region absorbed the fall of the Berlin Wall and the rise of Google without a ripple.

I’m not a big fan of Thomas Friedman, but I think he’s right about this:

China per se is not fueling the revolt here — but China and the whole Asian-led developing world’s rising consumption of meat, corn, sugar, wheat and oil certainly is. The rise in food and gasoline prices that slammed into this region in the last six months clearly sharpened discontent with the illegitimate regimes — particularly among the young, poor and unemployed.

There is also the problem of what he calls the “educated unemployables”:

Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Tunisia today are overflowing with the most frustrated cohort in the world — “the educated unemployables.” They have college degrees on paper but really don’t have the skills to make them globally competitive. I was just in Singapore. Its government is obsessed with things as small as how to better teach fractions to third graders. That has not been Hosni Mubarak’s obsession.

And in there is a cautionary tale for us – how obsessed are we with teaching fractions to third graders?  Are we going to fall far behind, too?

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