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Member’s Corner: “2 Million Minutes” Movie Analysis

November 17, 2008

By Neena Bhattatiry

My few minutes of analysis of this movie is based on our current standing in this world of technological advancement.

Is this movie an eye-opener? The answer is, of course, YES.

The movie director Compton is comparing students from three of the current economic power houses in the world.

How will the United States fare in the global economy of the future? What has prompted the Chinese and Indians to view education very seriously when compared to us? One phrase answers the question in general – the relative lack of good opportunities.

China went through the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s during which time nearly all economic activity halted; those who survived placed significant importance to education, especially math and science, as there were few other avenues for people to prosper. Similarly, the Indians went through decades of relative democratic socialism because of their relatively large population and widespread poverty; one of the few ways to succeed in life was getting educated and trying hard to enter into a professional course; that is, become a scientist, an engineer or a doctor.

This all points to the basic fact: Environment shapes a human being; a relatively tough, harsh and adverse environment brings forth his survival skills notably; he becomes more competitive. He becomes more ready to survive the known and unknown challenges facing him. Indirectly it somehow supports the Darwinian notion, “survival of the fittest”.

Let us take into perspective the comparative analysis the movie has presented to us.

A pair of students from the United States, India and China; these are smart youngsters from three different countries. We see a relaxed, individually-focused pair in the United States in stark contrast to the intellectually- and career-driven Chinese. And the Indians, though somewhat in the middle of that continuum of seriousness, are still seemingly more committed and prepared to contribute in adulthood than the average American student.

The concepts of education as related to life appear somewhat different in China and India. The Asians have no choice but to put in far more hours of work because of the intense academic COMPETITION. Yet the final scenes from the movie throw light upon the stark reality: these teenagers were not lucky enough to be rewarded by their positions of choice. The Americans, on the other hand, were luckier with their future options.

Are we as a nation making the right choices? Where will we stand in the decades to come?

The world before us is shrinking (or flattening as stated in the movie) and due to technological advancement can be seen more clearly; significant economic contributions NECESSITATE increasing interactions with the world outside the United States. It is no longer the US only which is a player in global economics. Other nations are fast catching up and preparing for the decades ahead.

Our education system has its advantages: education skills taught in schools will equip students to pursue whatever path they choose. Students formulate ideas of what would best suit them in life at a stage later than the Asians and, in that process, they might have traveled along various paths to reach their ultimate goal.

The Chinese and Indian students are trained, prepared and committed to pursuing a single focused career opportunity from which they rarely deviate.

Are the advantages of our educational system suited to the newer, faster world that is before us where we can observe far more succinctly what our partners (or rivals) are contributing to the world economy?

I am afraid not, if the math/science aptitude is low at the 12th grade level, as stated in the movie.

The movie questions how we want to live in the global scenario; it also examines the situation where we maintained status quo and face possible consequences.

What should America do?

We are not just faced with a global situation where we have limited control over the educational parameters; we are and will be increasingly facing tougher competition from nations which have large numbers of their citizens very well trained to face the grim realities in front of them.

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s TIME to enter the RACE that determines the future of our coming

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