Guess who NEVER will be on the cover of People?

I’m often at my desk early scanning my news aggregator (I awake to 300+ articles already populating my aggregator from the 200 or so blogs and other news feeds I follow with nearly 1,000 total articles coming into it daily) and something this morning struck my eye.

Scrolling down Yahoo News Top Stories, there were two articles (here and here) on the recent Nobel Prizes won by Americans. Just below the second one on John Mather (who is pictured at left in the photo) was an article about George Clooney’s thoughts about punking paparazzi by dating a different actress every night for months.

You should know that I’m a Clooney fan and admire that he has big ballocks which he used to great effect delivering his recent films Good Night and Good Luck and Syriana. But I’m even a bigger fan of those people who are inventing our future, people like John Mather and George Smoot and the irony of this juxtaposition of news feeds was too blatant for me to ignore.

I’d be living under a rock if I thought for a moment that John Mather would make women swoon like Clooney and therefore would be a good candidate for the cover of People magazine. But the constant and incessant focus on “stars” over scientists is a concern if you care about the minds of those who will invent our future (i.e., our children) and how we’re molding and shaping their thoughts about what’s important and where they should focus their attention.

The September 26, 2006 Global Competitiveness Report 2006-2007 released by the World Economic Forum had this to say about U.S. competitiveness:

Switzerland, Finland and Sweden are the world’s most competitive economies according to The Global Competitiveness Report 2006-2007, released by the World Economic Forum on 26 September 2006. Denmark, Singapore, the United States, Japan, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom complete the top ten list, but the United States shows the most pronounced drop, falling from first to sixth.

So who should we be lauding? Putting on the cover of magazines? Encouraging our children to emulate? My own 12 year old son — who is in the 99th percentile for IQ and reads voraciously with all the promise in the world — wants to be a video game designer because that’s what he thinks is cool. Nothing wrong with that (and I’ll encourage his passion whatever that ends up being) but our focus with him is on helping him think about focusing his talents toward building, exploring, creating and we frequently talk-up the accomplishments of those that do (and he could care less about false “heroes” thank God).

I know, I know…there aren’t publicity machines that drive revenue from promoting scientists like there are for sports “heroes”, movie stars and anorexic models, so this cacophony of noise about false heroes is unavoidable perhaps. But as a nation we should hammer, hammer and hammer on achievement, accomplishment, and thought leadership over who is hot or can hit more home runs.

1 Comment

  1. Peter Fleck on October 3, 2006 at 11:20 am

    “but the United States shows the most pronounced drop, falling from first to sixth”

    We’re really not that surprised are we? I read/research in the broadband/wireless area and we are way behind there with the distinct possibility of ending up with an Internet that we can call Cable TV II.

    Here’s a kind of wake-up moment. Guy Kawasaki recently visited Mumbai and posted some thoughts on his blog. The one that really struck me was this:

    “India has its own version of Amazon.com. At two intersections, kids came up to the car to sell us paperback versions of current business books. We bought a copy of The World Is Flat for $3. Not sure if I should be happy or depressed, but The Art of the Start was not available.”

    http://blog.guykawasaki.com/2006/10/mumbai_guy.html

    These kids aren’t washing windshields or selling hot romance books. They’re selling “The World is Flat.”

    In terms of our position in global technology leadership, this is kind of scary.



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