Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | April 22, 2005

Local, global inextricably linked

It’s tough to heed your editor’s “local, local, local” mantra when you’re hip-deep in a “Globalization and the Impact of Technology” course in which your grade depends upon your ability to think global, global, global. However, I’ve learned there’s often a greater link between the two than is apparent.

Local: Chris Cote’s recent letter to the editor lambasting The Dispatch’s editorial board for daring to question the Gilroy Police Department’s decision to allow 13 staff members to participate in a week-long, out-of-state SWAT team competition stunned me.

Yes, we want a well-trained police force. At the same time, citizens have a right to question if this trip was the best way to accomplish that, and City Council members, who citizens charged with managing tax dollars, have a duty to question it.

Despite Cote’s ill-informed allegations, the editorial board did not seek to deny much-needed police training, it sought to ensure that the training the GPD receives is cost-effective.

That’s reasonable, and hardly a “sneak attack … editorial” as Cote claims.

Global: It’s possible to oppose the war in Iraq, yet be a patriotic American.

It’s possible to recognize that a faction of the Muslim world wants to do great harm to America, yet respect Arab culture and Islam.

It’s possible to believe the Castro regime is bad for Cuba, yet support ending the embargo that has failed to bring down his government.

As Bill Maher says, “ … It’s important to be able to keep two opposing thoughts in your mind. That’s what we seem to have such a hard time doing. It drives me crazy when they say things like, “You’re pro-Saddam if you’re opposed to this method of fighting terrorists.’”

Here are my two opposing thoughts about the GPD’s 13-person, six-day, undetermined-cost trip to Las Vegas: It’s possible to question the trip, yet support having a well-trained, cohesive special operations team in Gilroy.

Local: Some Gilroy Unified School District parents are pushing for a second full-time GATE program. My first reaction, as the parent of a Morgan Hill Unified School District GATE-identified student, is envy. MHUSD has no full-time GATE program, and besides a couple of volunteer-led after-school enrichment activities, no real GATE program at all, at least based on our family’s experience.

However, my attitude changes when I put on my global thinking cap.

Global: Thanks to instant communications and the “death of distance,” as one book puts it, South Valley students aren’t competing with their fellow Bay Area, California, or United States students any more. They’re competing with Chinese, Indian, Russian, Brazilian and Czechoslovakian students for high-paying jobs.

If the United States is to remain competitive and secure in this new global reality, we have to be at least as well-educated as people who are willing to work for significantly less. Here’s what Thomas Friedman has to say in his new book, The World is Flat:

“Here is the dirty little secret that no CEO wants to tell you: They are not just outsourcing to save on salary. They are doing it because they can often get better-skilled and more productive people than their American workers.”

That’s backed up by plenty of data. A study released in December, conducted by the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), “ranked the United States 24th out of 29 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a Paris-based group that represents the world’s richest countries,” according to a Washington Post article.

The study is conducted every three years. The previous study had Americans in the middle of the pack. It’s not an encouraging trend.

It’s a patriotic to support public education, to be involved in the debate over how to improve it, and to make sure your children are performing their best. For parents, that means checking homework, ensuring that kids get enough sleep and eat nutritious meals, and generally knowing what’s going on at school.

That some parents are pushing to improve GATE education in the Gilroy Unified School District is a wonderful thing, not only for their kids, but for our community and our country. If it leads to pressure on the Morgan Hill Unified School District to improve its GATE program, so much the better.

When the trend that the PISA study revealed starts to reverse, when American students are competing well in the newly “flat” world, we’ll grasp the wisdom of a saying with two opposing thoughts: “Think globally, act locally.”

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