How do other countries create "smarter" kids? In a handful of nations, virtually all children are learning to make complex arguments and solve problems they've never seen before. They are learning to think, in other words, and to thrive in the modern economy.What is it like to be a child in the world's new education superpowers?
In a global quest to find answers for our own children, author and Time magazine journalist Amanda Ripley follows three Americans embedded in these countries for one year. Kim, 15, raises $10,000 so she can move from Oklahoma to Finland; Eric, 18, exchanges a high-achieving Minnesota suburb for a booming city in South Korea; and Tom, 17, leaves a historic Pennsylvania village for Poland.
Through these young informants, Ripley meets battle-scarred reformers, sleep-deprived zombie students, and a teacher who earns $4 million a year. Their stories, along with groundbreaking research into learning in other cultures, reveal a pattern of startling transformation: none of these countries had many "smart" kids a few decades ago. Things had changed. Teaching had become more rigorous; parents had focused on things that mattered; and children had bought into the promise of education.
A journalistic tour de force, The Smartest Kids in the World is a book about building resilience in a new world-as told by the young Americans who have the most at stake.
©2013 Amanda Ripley (P)2013 Tantor
"A compelling, instructive account regarding education in America, where the arguments have become 'so nasty, provincial, and redundant that they no longer lead anywhere worth going.'" (Kirkus)
Great teachers are the key to a great education. We all kind of know this, but this book breathes life into that concept.
A must read for parents of young children. This book cuts through the education and learning hype.
The book examines the pros and cons of four educational systems Korea, Finland, Poland and the United States and comes up with some interesting observations and recommendations.
I would recommend this book to anyone who values education. Of course, the problem, as Ripley points out, is that education is undervalued in American society. So the people who need to read this book the most probably never will. Even so, I do in fact recommend this book to everyone and anyone when the topic of education arises in conversation.
Amanda Ripley manages to balance broad, general, larger-than-life issues like standardized testing and diversity in education with very intimate stories about students and educators. In fact, the very personal stories of the three students she follows during the course of the book serve to illustrate and bring into focus those larger themes. It's very important that Ripley strikes this balance, because she's taking on some sacred cows of the American educational system, namely sports and technology in school. Because she lets the people in her narrative speak for themselves, though, the book comes off as less didactic than it otherwise might.
I listen to a lot of fantasy and science fiction audiobooks, and, I'll be honest, I'm not a fan of Kate Reading's narration in that genre. I find it bland and lacking in that adventurous spark intrinsic to the books she's tapped to narrate.
However, she's an absolutely perfect narrator for a work of non-fiction like this one. She infuses her narration with enough emotion to make the students, parents, and teachers in Ripley's narrative feel alive, but not so much that it overpowers the intellectual themes and ideas that the author is trying to convey. Reading also nails the wide range of accents featured in the book, from mellifluous Finnish to sparse Korean.
And How They Got That Way
As an aspiring professor, I realize I'm incredibly biased, but I think The Smartest Kids in the World just might be the most important book you read this year. When politicians lament our foundering education system, they point to the decline of American test scores in math and science, areas that are increasingly important in today's global economy. While Ripley certainly mentions this too, she points to a much more pervasive and far-reaching problem: most Americans don't value education.
Sure, parents are involved in schools, but, Ripley argues, it's usually only to make brownies for the annual bake sale. And when university is mentioned, most people immediately think of their favorite NCAA sports team. The real skills needed to succeed and lead in the 21st century--creativity, innovation, lateral thinking--can only truly be learned by students who are fully invested in the learning process, and who have a support system robust enough to keep them on track.
True, the book doesn't outline any cut-and-dried solutions, if there are any. But I think she does accurately frame the problem, which serves as an excellent starting point for much-needed difficult discussions on where our priorities lie.
This is a book about kids who wanted to go to school in Europe and found ways to go. This is NOT a book about how those schools are different. Any discussion about the differences in the school systems is a footnote to the real topic of the book- long overly dramatized mini-novels about kids who want to go to Europe- Why do they want to go? Meh, Not important. Every time the writer comes dangerously close to having to say something substantive about her supposed topic she very suddenly and awkwardly changes the subject. She might have though she was being suspenseful but I don't have a whole lot of patience for writers who want to fill their non-fictions with pointless stories, all of which are overly dramatized to pad her book. Who cares how depressed these kids were about the weather and what they thought about their hair when they wanted to go to school in Europe? How about telling us the differences in the schools? Differences in the administration? Differences in the techniques? Differences in the discipline? Differences in the teachers? Differences in the culture? Differences in the schedules, curriculum, athletics, funding ANYTHING! What about a book about The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way? Would that be too much to ask? I am going to get a refund. This book is nothing like advertised. People who like short novels about kids getting into European schools will find this book entertaining.
As a relative newcomer to the U.S. high school instruction "business," I am shocked by the way our system operates. I am even more dismayed having read this book and coming to the realization that the information is out there on how to deliver an effective education. There is a way to deliver excellence in education and it begins by treating both students and educators with respect but we as a country are choosing not to utilize this information. Instead, we are wasting millions of taxpayer dollars chasing outmoded techniques... Why??!!
This book presents a US-centric view of how and why we are trending steadily downward in education, creating young adults who don't think as well as they would like. It made me realize this trend is not the fault of the teachers nor the students, but there is a lot we can do to affect positive change if we get involved in the right way. The book shows us the possibilities by looking closely at some other countries. I learned a lot. This book was journalistic and broad minded, as opposed to being heavy handed and forcing you to conclusions, and it is easy to stay focused with the audio version.
Avid audiobook addict!
This reads like a bunch of newspaper articles by a good journalist. Memorable real stories, not a bunch of opinions.
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