Tom Friedman really goes out on a limb and reminds us that good parenting–being attentive, supportive, reading to kids, etc.–has as much impact on educational outcomes as the quality of schools and teachers. Of course, good genes don’t hurt either, but that would be a little edgy for Friedman.
On the other hand, has Tom not noticed that globalization makes this all a little harder. The last 30 years have seen more women enter the workforce, when they otherwise might have been able to be home with their children and read to them. And they’ve done this not merely to have luxuries but simply to maintain a toehold on the middle class. And their husbands–when they are married–have seen their wages cut and their jobs outsourced overseas due to the globalization Tom spends so much time trumpeting. People are uncertain, unsafe, and unsecure, and our policymakers think this is great, since some executive in Bangalore can now buy Starbucks. And now, the youngest generation, the ones having kids, learn that the Baby Boomers whose plentiful and well paying jobs may not be available for them to take over, becuase we learn in the same Sunday New York Times that more and more Baby Boomers are putting off retirement because their investments have been destroyed. And this too is a consequence of the globalization that Friedman spends most of his time applauding.