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The Podium

Excepts from the Globe’s Voices of New England blog

LESSONS I LEARNED FROM JAPAN

In the United States and elsewhere, Japan is often seen as insular and moribund — a place that’s been fighting the same set of vexing economic problems for so long with so little effectiveness that it resembles a sports team mired in a long winless streak.

When you actually visit Japan, however, these views seem misguided.

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Tokyo is a vibrant city, with exquisite, innovative, and user-friendly new high-rises adding to the beauty of the skyline.

I met many dynamic business leaders and entrepreneurs — people whose optimism is palpable.

Despite the perception that once-innovative firms like Sony have been lapped by foreign competitors, Japan continues to quietly produce companies that are poised to become world-beaters.

Economic inequality is strikingly low at a time when so many other nations have seen an alarming rise. Its society feels orderly and ­harmonious.

Harvard Business School

INVESTING IN STATE’S CHILDREN

Governor Patrick’s budget proposes an increase of $131 million in additional funding for early childhood education and care.

While modest in relation to other initiatives, this additional funding has the opportunity to affect nearly every household in the Commonwealth. It can strengthen families and play a critical role in accelerating steps our schools have taken to close the achievement gap.

This may finally allow us to begin a crucial aspect of education reform: ensuring that all children, regardless of family income or what neighborhood they live in, have access to high-quality child care and preschool prior to kindergarten.

While our work between kindergarten and college has been exemplary on many fronts, Massachusetts has fallen behind in the effort to ensure high-quality early childhood education. Our missteps in this area may be a chief reason the successes of education reform have failed to reach every school.

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