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Posted by: Laurence Chaij on Jan 19, 2018
I consider the time I spent as a dependent in the U.S. diplomatic community as an invaluable experience and education. We moved from embassy to embassy in Latin America, where my father served as a career foreign service officer. I got a first-hand look into the inner workings of other cultures, their political and economic mindsets, and what makes them tick as a whole. Learning their language to such a degree of perfection, that even now, others are constantly baffled by the fact that they can't detect an accent in my speech. Since returning to the U.S. to pursue my college education, I earned a BBA in Management and an MBA in International Business. Currently, I am teaching in two local Chattanooga institutions of higher learning.
     
Historically, the United States has held a long tradition of relationships, nearness to market, and the admiration of Latin American countries towards the U.S. for its economic strength and technological knowhow. This gives U.S. companies, not to mention Tennessee in particular, a strategic advantage.
 
I was able to observe the effects of the U.S. Foreign Aid Programs in the years when our financial assistance required that the funds be used to "buy American." Once foreign companies and their staff began to use American-made equipment and products, in almost all cases, they continued to do so. I interned at INCAE (the Central American Business Administration Institute, an affiliate of Harvard University in Costa Rica). All the professors were American, all the case studies were about American companies, and the internships given to the Latin Americans were in the U.S., with American enterprises.
 
Multinational investments in Latin America, through the end of the first Bush presidency, far outweighed the investments of Western Europe, Russia, and China. In certain industries, such as avionics, exports all came from the U.S. Lately Canada, Brazil, and Europe have taken big chunks of this market because we have not paid attention to these regions and markets.
 
For decades the U.S. government through USAID and USIA, sponsored up-and-coming leaders from these countries with graduate level scholarships to some of our more prestigious universities, to train and influence them. The participants, without exception, returned to their countries with the U.S. cultural and entrepreneurial point of reference (Unfortunately Russia sent many more participants to study in Russia than the U.S. Luckily for the U.S., Russia's lack of technical and scientific competitiveness allowed the U.S. to neutralize Russian efforts in Latin America. However, you have Bolivia, Cuba, and Venezuela as sad cases of the effect of the influence of education). One practices what one learns.
 
So why the history lesson? We have to regain our economic position in the world's marketplace! Specifically, we have to begin educating our youth to meet this international challenge head-on.
 
Currently, there seems to be a growing academic trend in Tennessee to not prepare our youth to embrace globalization. Case in point, Tennessee's community colleges don't offer any international business courses that I know of.
 
We need to start educating our next generations so that they can analyze and tackle any situation they are faced with from a global standpoint. Case in point, how many of our youth are required to learn a second language? While in other countries, their citizens are fluent in three, four and even five languages.
 
I truly believe that we have the best educational system in the world (That is why Asia, the Middle East, and others are sending their youth here to learn). Isn't it about time we put our own resources to work for us? Our promising youth, our leaders of tomorrow, need this insight into the world now more than ever.
     
Tennessee is once again the state that receives more foreign direct investment than any other state in the Union. With the Tennessee Promise educational program we are also the state that all others are using as the example to follow in free education. So with the deck already stacked in our favor, Tennessee should be the first to benefit from educating our people in "the cultures and ways of the world!"
 
Add to this the fact that many consumer products continue to be produced by U.S. companies overseas. If the U.S. lowers the corporate income tax rates a lot of retained earnings will return to the U.S. and will create employment in Tennessee and elsewhere in the country. Just another possible benefit to be reaped from knowing how to deal in the international arena of trade and commerce.

Laurence D. Chaij is an associate professor at both Chattanooga State Community College and Southern Adventist University, where he teaches courses in business and communications.