DOUG ROSS: There's a world outside NWI's steel walls

2014-04-25T00:00:00Z DOUG ROSS: There's a world outside NWI's steel wallsBy Doug Ross, (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357

The oft-cited but still impressive statistic is that more steel is made in two counties — Lake and Porter — than in any other entire state.

It's easy to lose perspective of how you fit in the big picture when you spend pretty much your entire life within those two counties.

But trust me, there's a whole world out there, even in the steel industry.

We're in an era of global competition. U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Ind., spoke about this Thursday at a meeting of The Times Board of Economists.

Visclosky is vice chairman of the Congressional Steel Caucus.

"The good news on steel, internationally, is that imports were down in 2013," he said. "The bad news internationally is that imports of tubular products were up 35 percent, which is all the evidence you need that our trading partners are very sophisticated as to which products they need to dump here to put American manufacturers out of business."

"As one of my former colleagues said once, we win most of our trade cases. By the time they are won, an American manufacturer or two is out of business, and so the dumping fees are worth the investment because we have eliminated our competition even though we lost our case."

Global competition is a rough business. That's true for more than the steel industry.

That's why we must also focus on another sort of global competition — building students' brainpower.

There are all sorts of comparisons of American students to their peers internationally. And there are all sorts of flaws with those comparisons.

One is we're not using the same yardstick as the rest of the world. American students not only aren't taking the same tests, but we're literally using different yardsticks.

The rest of the world has converted to the metric system, but Americans stubbornly stick to the old English system of measurement. Unless you drink, or do drugs, or compete internationally, the metric system probably doesn't mean much to you.

Americans, and Hoosiers in particular, are nothing if not stubborn.

For example, not until late in a Hoosier student's education career is a foreign language introduced. That's not the case in other nations. The ideal time to learn language skills is when children are much younger.

Yet when was the last time anyone did a monumental shake-up of what skills should be learned when?

If you want to remain a world leader, you have to step up your game. But that requires keeping an eye on your competition. It requires a broad perspective.

You don't notice these things when you confine yourself to your own county and perhaps the one next door. But as the steel industry knows, there's a whole other world out there. Are we preparing our children and ourselves to face it?

Editorial Page Editor Doug Ross can be reached at (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 or Follow him at and on Twitter @nwi_DougRoss. The opinions are the writer's.

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