Film: U.S. Students Can't Compete in High-Tech World

Documentary Compares Students From United States, India and China

Feb. 20, 2008 —

Bob Compton, an Indianapolis venture-capitalist-turned-filmmaker, has produced a controversial new documentary called "2 Million Minutes" that looks at how American education falls short in today's global economy.

"What I saw in the K-12 schools absolutely shocked me in both India and China. … I became very concerned about the competitiveness of my own daughters' education," Compton said on "Good Morning America."

He explained that the students he saw in those countries were "two and three years ahead" of his daughters and their peers in America.

The film follows two students from Carmel High School in Indianapolis, as well as two students from India and two from China. The premise is that they all have roughly 2 million minutes in high school to build their intellectual foundation and prepare for college and a career.

Twenty months in the making, "2 Million Minutes" highlights the pressures and priorities of these students and their families. Ultimately, it provides insight into the changing nature of competition in a technology-based global economy.

"Between the cultures, students allocate their time quite differently. The difference is the parental expectations of the students, the community's expectations."

Unlike in the United States, where he said sports often gets the most recognition, in India and China, "the community recognizes and awards intellectual and academic achievements."

Nick Ahrendt, one of the Carmel High students featured in the film, said he too could see the difference.

"I wouldn't say I'm jealous of their education because a lot of it is one-track education, in engineering or medicine. But if I had wanted to go into one of those fields, I probably would feel that I would've been better off growing up over there," he said on "GMA."

Now a college student at Purdue University, Ahrendt said that while in high school, "I didn't see the benefit of putting in the extra time. But over there they see the benefit of getting a better job, a better life."

"As a high-tech entrepreneur and venture capitalist for the past 25 years," Compton said," I can tell you the people who have reaped the greatest economic rewards in the past two decades have been those with the most rigorous and thorough understanding of technology — and thus a solid foundation in math and science — and who have an ability to solve problems and possess entrepreneurial skill."

The movie is not without its critics, however, including many educators in the United States.

The National Association of Secondary School Principals released a statement that outlines some of the group's problems with the film. It says that the film engages in "statistical sleight of hand," by providing statistics about dropout rates in the United States, but never mentions similar statistics from China or India.

The group also says that the film focuses exclusively on math, science and engineering, but doesn't consider excellence in other subjects, and that the film compares students of different achievement levels.

Compton says that's not the point of the film though. "It's not an indictment of the school system. … If anything it criticizes America culture," he said.

Find out more about the documentary at