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The following article was written by Coleman Patterson and appeared in the Business section of the Abilene Reporter-News.

‘Iron Man’ and lessons about innovation, May 11, 2008, 2D.

Iron Man is a box office sensation.  The main character is an ego maniac who derives his power and position from the things that he invents.   After a life-changing experience, he decides to focus his creative genius into inventing a super high-tech suit of armor that he uses to fight bad guys.  The movie leaves audiences with several important lessons about personal priorities, greed, ambition and power, and the triumph of good over evil. 

When leaving the theater with my son after the movie, I was happy to find out that he had received another lesson from the movie.  He wanted to know if he would be able to build an Iron Man suit after he graduates from college.  He just might.  Unlike characters in other superhero movies who have exceptional abilities like speed, strength, x-ray vision, elasticity, and invisibility or the abilities to burst into flames, fly, read minds, and time travel, the power of Iron Man comes from his exceptional intellect and knowledge of science and engineering. 

Creating interest in science and engineering careers among today’s children might remedy the impending shortage of American engineers and scientists described by Thomas Friedman in his book, The World is Flat.  In today’s flat world, knowledge workers are able to sell their services to organizations and customers around the world using modern information and communication technology.  With more and more people becoming connected through the Internet and with millions of highly educated and capable knowledge workers from India, China, and the former Soviet states now competing for jobs with Americans in the global marketplace, it is increasingly important that American children receive educations that will allow them to compete for the best jobs in the future.  Friedman argues that if America wants to stay at the forefront of innovation and the creation of new and high-paying jobs, we must make science and mathematics education high national priorities.

Friedman says that we should tell our children that “there will be plenty of good jobs out there in the flat world for people with the right knowledge, skills, ideas, and self-motivation to seize them.”  He says that “every young American today would be wise to think of himself or herself as competing against every young Chinese, Indian, and Brazilian.”  Friedman quoted an Indian businessman as saying “what’s happening now is just the tip of the iceberg…there is a fundamental shift that is happening in the way people are going to do business.  And everyone is going to have to improve themselves and be able to compete.  It is just going to be one global market.”

To ensure that America stays at the forefront of global innovation and job creation, our children must be inspired to pursue careers in high-tech fields and to study hard and learn difficult subjects.  They must be prepared to work with people from around the world and to market their services and inventions to people around the world.  Who knows, a few might even find themselves in self-made superhero suits fighting global tyranny and injustice.


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© 2006, 2007, 2008  Coleman Patterson, All Rights Reserved