On the surface, “Standing Up to Japan” seemed a witty, cute picture of California life in the suburbs. Unfortunately, Fallows missed two important points in the 1980s relationship between Japanese and American cultures.

First, what America is copying from Japan is not its discipline, rigidity and diligence, but quite the contrary--a new, open, collegial, flexible, creative approach to problem-solving and technological innovation.

The second point reveals that Fallows’ Chevy got stalled in the 1950s and was never recharged: American education has done far more than stratify society by its SAT scores. Rather than separate “professionals” (doctors, lawyers) from all the other less prestigious and lucrative workers, American higher education has historically been the springboard for thousands of people into new, never-thought-of-before careers--careers that facilitate and support a constantly changing technological society. Has Fallows wandered around a college campus lately?