kitchen table math, the sequel: lagging technology diffusion in real life

Friday, August 8, 2008

lagging technology diffusion in real life

Remember this observation from The Race Between Education and Technology?

It is clear that the farmer with a relatively high level of education has tended to adopt productive innovations earlier than the farmer with relatively little education.

Greenscaper Bob describes the same phenomenon in indoor plantscaping, where he says the U.S. is 30 years behind Europe:

If we don't understand the difference between capillary action and osmosis, it's a symptom of an education problem. If we don’t understand that plants have no intelligence to start and stop “drinking” water, it's a symptom of an education problem. If we believe a clay pot and saucer is the best way to maintain plants in containers, it's a symptom of an education problem. If we think the term “self-watering” is synonymous with sub-irrigation, it's a symptom of an education problem.

I see these beliefs expressed every day of my blogging research on the web. They lead to an opinion that our level of science education in the field of gardening and horticulture is woefully weak. Is this an anomaly peculiar to the field of horticulture or is it symptomatic of our overall education?

David Brooks wrote an op-ed piece yesterday titled The Biggest Issue and benchmarked our education decline around 1975. I’ve been an eyewitness to much of this in the field of “ornamental” horticulture, which attracted high school students to land grant colleges by the thousands in the ‘70s.

This was the time of the biggest houseplant boom of all time. Ferns in macramé hangers were everywhere. As a mid-life career changer from IBM and the business of data processing I was caught up in it too. I seriously thought of buying a plant shop in Southern California. Instead, I found my way into the field of interior plantscaping.

That was the beginning of my discovery about the techno-averse, anti-business character of the ornamental horticulture world. As I discovered the prevailing practice of “poke and pour” interior plant maintenance, I started looking for better ways to water and found them.

I didn’t have to look too far. Sub-irrigation planters were already well established in Europe by the 1970s. They were, however, essentially unknown here in the U.S. Over thirty years later, thanks to our woefully deficient science education they still are.

Our education system is the top rung issue that will most likely guide my vote in the coming presidential election. I believe it is the issue that will have the greatest impact on the quality of life of our young people and future generations. We simply cannot afford to have “flat earth” believers competing in a flat earth global economy.

Greenscaper Bob
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The Race Between Ed & Tech: the Great Compression
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an example of lagging technology diffusion in the U.S.

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