The Challenges of the New World

Like every other segment of our nation’s critical infrastructure, the field of higher education will need to change dramatically in the next 10 years to thrive and survive in our rapidly and dramatically changing world.

Prior to a recent trip to lecture department chairs and professors at the College of Social Science and Humanities at Vietnam National University in Ho Chi Minh City, I thought I should learn more about Vietnam and Asia as a whole. I decided to read the book China Inc. on my flight over. The book is a fascinating and sobering read. Author Ted Fishman makes a strong case that China may very well supplant the United States as the world’s leading power within the next decade. Providing an array of compelling statistics, Fishman lays out an astounding case for the unprecedented growth of the Chinese economy since major economic reforms triggered nothing short of a revolution there. The explosion in the Chinese economy has direct implications for colleges, universities and technical colleges in the United States; among those is the need for safe educational environments to maximize the quality of education.

The figures for manufacturing job loss in the Philippines, Mexico, Japan, Korea and the United States are compelling. The global impact of the wholesale disregard for patents and copyrights in China is impacting our nation, and the emphasis on improvements in education to allow China to substantively increase its manufacturing capacity also causes concern. Though the United States has not thus far been as hard hit as some other countries — like Japan — the author makes a strong case that we have been hit hard already and will likely feel even more of an impact in years to come.

Though I found Vietnam to be underdeveloped compared to the United States, explosive change is occurring there as well. Also encountering fierce competition from the Chinese, the emphasis on economic growth in the country is readily observable as soon as one rides through Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). It seems as though nearly every house contains a business, and in some ways, capitalism is more visible there than in Washington, DC. Homes containing stores sell an endless selection of products, which are often made in other houses where primitive, yet effective, miniature factories turn out carefully crafted guitars, woodcarvings, shoes, clothing and other goods. Vietnam’s economy has been one of the fastest growing in the world for nearly a decade. If the UNITED STATES successfully partners with Vietnam to find a way to harvest its offshore oil, the economic boom there will likely encounter another explosion, while perhaps alleviating to some degree our oil woes.

Though many American jobs are now closely tied to factories in China, Germany, Korea and other countries, our way of life will surely continue to change in the coming years. Paying more attention to labels has made me realize that my new stainless steel gas grill, my Japanese-brand laptop computer, DVD player, and even most of my hunting clothes and deer stands were all made in China. Of course, we face tremendous competition from other countries as well. Increasingly, x-rays are shipped overnight to India because qualified technicians there can read them and e-mail results back to America for a fraction of the cost of their American counterparts.

Our world is changing, and higher education must address these changes as much as the American business sector must do. This raises the issue of safety and order on our college and university campuses.

While most colleges and universities have made dramatic strides in the arena of safety, others are clearly lagging behind. For schools to achieve what they need to on the academic front, they must first ensure a safe and orderly learning environment. When my son and I lectured in Ho Chi Minh City, we had to cover the many differences between safety and emergency preparedness issues between the two countries. At the same time, disruption on campus in Vietnam has the same effect as it does here. Like their American counterparts, institutions of higher learning of Vietnam will play a key role in determining the level of economic growth, and thus, the very quality of life there in coming years. The future of our way of life will be determined in American college classrooms. Should safety, order and discipline be lacking, we will clearly not fare as well.

Michael Dorn serves as the executive director for Safe Havens International Inc., an IRS-approved, non-profit safety center. He has authored and co-authored more than 20 books on campus safety and can be reached through the Safe Havens Website at

About the Author

Michael S. Dorn has helped conduct security assessments for more than 6,000 K-12 schools, keynotes conferences internationally and has published 27 books including Staying Alive – How to Act Fast and Survive Deadly Encounters. He can be reached at