"We have met the enemy and he is us," says Pogo, the cartoon character. The enemy is the crisis in our educational system, and "crisis" is the only term that accurately describes the situation. It is every bit as serious, if not more so, than the crisis that followed the Soviet launching of Sputnik in 1957 - and for many of the same reasons. Our failing public education system threatens our position int he global political and business arenas; and this time, it's not just the Soviets or the Japanese who need to be taken seriously as competitors. Every country int he world that graduates better prepared students than we do - and there are a great many of them - has us at a competitive disadvantage.
How is it that we woke up one day in the early 1980s to find that apparently American industry was suddenly inefficient, our workforce unproductive and our management inept? Almost overnight industry found its sales dropping dramatically, while for many companies foreign competition became excruciatingly intense. This sudden change in the economic climate proved fatal for many companies and has been nearly as hard on our collective morale. In a country used to winning, we began to hear ourselves talked of as losers.
Inviting an American shipbuilding industry official to discuss the subject of meeting foreign competition is like inviting Jackie Gleason to speak on dieting. I am painfully aware of the commercial shipbuilding industry situation. Let me tell you a little about it.
These are changing times for industry. Trauma and uncertainty are always a part of change, and change is not always for the better. Change is usually forced, most frequently by competition. Our competitive free enterprise system should be able to respond to competition because that's its basis. These are critical years. If we do not respond effectively to change and competition, it could be disasterous.