Former Intel CEO on education, jobs, & technology

Tuesday 30 November, 2010

I attended this Chicago Council on Global Affairs event ENGINEERING A NEW GENERATION: EDUCATION, JOBS, AND TECHNOLOGY which featured former Intel CEO Craig Barrett.    Craig contributed to the report Rising above the Gathering Storm & it’s revision, which note that the 21st century is the year of the treadmill-either go faster or get kicked off:  the “flat world” has changed with 3B new capitalists.  He suggests we compete 3 ways:

  1. better education to raise our standard of living
  2. create better new ideas with more innovation, technology, & R&D;  some countries invest 5% of their GDP in R&D, while R&D investment in primary R&D in the US has been declining for 30 years
  3. set the right environment to bring together 1 & 2

Since the ultimate source of wisdom is fortune cookies, he offers 3:

cookie #1-the world accepts talent, passion & education…but the younger generation in the US is less well-educated than their parents. We’re #20 in the world in high school graduation rate:  30% of students don’t graduate;  we need to solve the drop-out rate problem.  Of the 2/3 who do graduate, 1/2 of them are not qualified for college.  The US is falling in terms of math & science education-we’re now in the bottom 1/4 of OECD countries.  Math is a serial subject which builds from year-to-year, but the probability of getting a good math teacher 12 years in a row when only 2/3 of all teachers know math is pretty slim.  Although science is not as serial a subject as math, we’re even less well-equipped in science.  We are ceding leadership while at the same time seeding leadership in other countries when 60% of students in our engineering schools are foreign nationals.  Our educational system conflicts with our immigration policies-we might has well staple green cards to PhD diplomas.  Although our universities are still the best in the world, our K-12 system “sucks,” his technical term, 1st mentioned in the A Nation at Risk report.

cookie #2-you can’t win unless you compete…Although the US is still the biggest investor in R&D by virtue of being the biggest economy in the world, the US no longer supports basic research at universities, which has fallen 60% as a % of GDP.  The US is #20 in offering R&D tax credits, which are offered on an on again/off again basis.  The budget of the National Science Foundation remains flat @ $5B.  The result is that venture capitalists take less risk.  Moore’s 2nd law states “You can’t save your way out of a recession-you can only invest your way out of it.”  The government offers many disincentives to invest in the US;  uncompetitive corporate tax rates, Sarbanes-Oxley requirements, expensive health care, etc.  Australia invested its stimulus money in building broadband infrastructure while the US invested in “shovel-ready” projects.

cookie #3-performing a small deed is better than planning a big deed…The National Governors Association together with Achieve, Inc. adopted common core curriculum standards as international benchmarks for 48 states, but only 3-4 states allow competition in education while 11 states don’t allow charter schools.  At the best schools in Arizona, where Barrett lives, only 25% of teachers are certified as educators.  The rest are subject matter experts.


  • the most common background of Fortune 500 CEO’s is engineering, so the arts are not as important as math & science in education
  • we need to focus on educating in basic skills;  the best international education Barrett got was the 1st time he lived in a foreign country
  • we need:
  1. good teachers who are subject matter experts & are respected
  2. high expectations
  3. good feedback loops
  • Arne Duncan has taken on the teacher’s unions to reward teachers based on performance & not tenure
  • Good & enthusiastic teachers get women involved in math & science.  Change the Equation helps too.
  • Although technology makes education more interesting, good teachers are the best technology.
  • We need to protect our intellectual property at the World Trade Organization to leverage US innovation.  Intel invests 15% of its revenues in R&D, & earns 90% of its revenues from new products every year.
  • Without investment in R&D years ago, we wouldn’t have developed Silicon Valley.  We need to invest in R&D & let companies run with it.  Microsoft invests $7-8B/year in R&D to fend off threats from start-ups such as Marc Andreeson, Yahoo, & Google.  Ideas can compete-we need to get them our best resources.

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