“The World is Flat”

“The World is Flat” by Thomas L. Friedman

Throughout my reading of “The World is Flat,” I wondered, would your average high school student want to read this? This is ironic, because where subject matter is concerned, this book should be required reading for every teen. It’s all about you and the world you will be living in, the world in which you will succeed (or fail) at making a living, at making peace and progress.

This isn’t a book about life before 1492. The author, a Pulitzer Prize winner, uses the word ‘flat’ to mean that the world is now a level playing field for opportunities—economic and educational. Whereas young Americans and western Europeans once had more opportunity than any other people in the world, modern technologies, especially communications technologies, have insured that bright young people from third world countries are now competitive. Friedman discusses ten ‘flatteners’ that caused this including outsourcing, the change in supply-chains and in the way we organize and receive information. The examples are both diverse and numerous. Manufacturing will be off-shored to China for years to come—the only thing altering this is when China becomes a technology leader and competes at another level. In the meantime, India is available for the outsourcing of jobs that had been ‘safe’ for many years—service jobs such as accounting, engineering, and computer programming. Even tutoring is outsourced quite effectively.

As I have children your age, reading this book made me want to run around like Chicken Little screaming, “The sky is falling!” Would all jobs—not just those for the uneducated—walk out the door? What would my kids do once I got them through college? Happily, the outlook is not all dim.

Friedman makes a good case for being educated—and even for a broad liberal arts education that includes high level math, science and language. The old “reading, writing, and ‘rithematic,” just to a higher power. To succeed, young American s will need to be both creative and adaptable. To keep their country safe they will, paradoxically, need to be open and embrace globalism. School Library Journal says that this is “an ideal title for tech-savvy teens.” I think it’s an ideal title for all teens—who will realize how tech-savvy they need to be.

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About Victoria Waddle

I'm a high school librarian, formerly an English teacher. I love to read and my mission is to connect people with the right books. To that end, I read widely--from the hi-lo for reluctant high school readers to the literary adult novel for the bibliophile.
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