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Author Friedman gives advice on getting ahead

North Chicago  Wednesday  5/30/12 

Pulitzer Prize winning author Thomas Friedman spoke Rosalind FranklUniversity Wednesday evening. Friedman was medical

North Chicago Wednesday, 5/30/12 Pulitzer Prize winning author, Thomas Friedman spoke at Rosalind Franklin University Wednesday evening. Friedman was at the medical school talking about the state of education in America. | Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times Media

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Friedman’s prediction

Pulitzer Prize winning writer Thomas Friedman predicts that change to education in America will come through “revolutionary people and revolutionary technology.”

‘In a couple years there will be no books in schools,” Friedman said. “IPads will push lessons” to students and teachers will be able to see, in virtual time, what concepts their students understand and where they need more instruction.

Teaching must be made a “more attractive” profession,” said Friedman, who added that new systems for teacher evaluation need to be developed and that he supports policies of countries that insist new teacher candidates be drawn from the top 10 percent of their college class.

“We can’t have people teaching math and physics who don’t understand math and physics,” he said.

Friedman also warns that fewer and fewer people can afford higher education. He points to online, interactive education companies like that allow students from around the world to listen to lectures, complete coursework, receive tutoring, earn grades and certificates of completion for under $100 per course as a means to better jobs and advancement to better schools.

Whatever changes come, Friedman said, one thing will remain consistent.

“You have to work harder as an individual,” he said.

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Updated: July 6, 2012 9:47AM

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Thomas Friedman drew a large crowd during a Wednesday appearance at Rosalind Franklin School of Medicine and Science in North Chicago, where he advised that people who want to get ahead in a “hyperconnected” world need to think like new immigrants, artisans, “starter-uppers” and a waitress at his favorite pancake house.

Friedman said new immigrants “pursue opportunities with more vigor, vitality and consistency” than others and that artisans “bring something extra,” and “take pride in their work.” Starter-uppers embrace innovation, “re-invent, re-engineer, re-design” themselves and never think of themselves as “finished,” Friedman said. The waitress at the Perkins Pancake House in Minneapolis earned a 50 percent tip by telling one of her customers that she had given him “extra fruit.”

“She couldn’t control much in her own little world, but she controlled that ladle,” Friedman said. “Always be entrepreneurial.”

Friedman, a columnist and former foreign correspondent and bureau chief for the New York Times, whose work earned him a Pulitzer Prize in 1983, 1988 and 2002, talked-up his new book, “That Used to Be Us.” Written with fellow foreign policy expert Michael Mandelbaum, it offers both explanation and prescription for America’s slumping economy.

Friedman said he and Mandelbaum are “frustrated optimists.”

“Is our future all used up? We don’t think so,” Friedman said. “But we can’t just assume by default we will pass on the American Dream to the next generation. We have to get our act together, get focused, be regenerated.”

The biggest threat to the nation’s national security isn’t al-Qaida, Friedman warned, but a “slow decline.”

America, Friedman said, is failing to understand the “biggest thing happening on the planet today — the merger of globalization and the IT revolution.” He cited the uprising in Syria, which is not being covered by news organizations that have been banned by the Assad regime, but by citizens who take and post photos and videos through the Shaam News Network and YouTube.

Friedman, who purchased a $39 iPad in India last fall, called universal access to cheap automation, robotics and software the “central socioeconomic fact of our time,”

“Average is over,” Friedman declared. “Everyone has to identify and nurture unique value added — why they should be hired or promoted.

“You will have to invent jobs to keep a job,” Friedman declared. “Invent and re-invent that job, make it so they absolutely have to hire you. If you just show up, you will not earn an average wage.”

Friedman said that the routine, repetitive work that once sustained the middle class, “has been crushed.”

“Even non-routine work isn’t safe,” he said.

In interviews with the heads of companies in different sectors, Friedman said he learned that white collar, blue collar and green collar (armed forces) are all looking for the same employee: the person who possesses critical thinking and problem-solving skills, ‘people who can invent, re-invent and re-enrgize” their jobs while they’re performing them, “employees who are present all the time” and “who pay attention.”

Friedman’s talk was the first in a four-speaker series on the state of education in America and its effect on global competitiveness and human potential. Sponsors for the series, in addition to Rosalind Franklin University, include Advance Illinois, the Gorter Family Foundation, North Chicago Community Partners, Wintrust Financial Corp. and Trinity International University.

The next speaker in the series, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, will appear at a date yet to be determined.

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