The only way the United States will regain its global technological edge is for Americans to change their attitudes about education, a nationally syndicated columnist says.

Jack Anderson, speaking to the National Head Start Association Training Conference this week in Symphony Hall, compared U.S. students, their Japanese counterparts and attitudes about education in each country."I don't think we are inferior. Part of it is attitude. The Japanese have the `shoulder to the wheel' commitment. Many of our people shrug their shoulders non-chalantly," Anderson said.

Anderson said the key is quality mass education. While the United States once had the best-skilled, best-educated work force in the world, today Japan has that distinction. That change is rooted in how seriously the Japanese take education.

"The children go to school there to get an education. Too many of ours go to get a diploma. And to show they are serious about education, Japanese children take the tough courses, the tough disciplines. Our kids go for the easy courses," Anderson said.

In Japan, the teachers are honored and are in the upper 10 percent of pay scales. It is quite the opposite in the United States. The Japanese education system develops engineers while the American system develops lawyers, Anderson said.

As a result of American educational mediocrity, Japan has become a nation of producers, America a nation of consumers, Anderson said.

"The American dream is in peril. The future of my grandchildren and your children and grandchildren is no longer assured. Their heritage is no longer guaranteed."

Those children will inherit a nation that is bankrupt and plagued by drugs unless current trends are reversed. Part of that reversal should be to bring space-age education into the classroom.

Anderson highlighted the Young Astronaut Program, which he founded, and announced its partnership with Head Start pre-school programs. The programs use students' fascination with space to interest them in science- and technology-related subjects.

"They need a head start into the 21st century, and that is what we are going to try to do." Anderson said. "We are standing on the shores of the greatest frontiers that ever existed."

He said space education can link the world in peace as young astronauts and cosmonauts realize they are fellow travelers on "spaceship Earth."