How do other countries create “smarter” kids? What is it like to be a child in the world’s new education superpowers? The Smartest Kids in the World “gets well beneath the glossy surfaces of these foreign cultures and manages to make our own culture look newly strange....The question is whether the startling perspective provided by this masterly book can also generate the will to make changes” (The New York Times Book Review).
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. Inspired 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, fifteen, raises $10,000 so she can move from Oklahoma to Finland; Eric, eighteen, trades his high-achieving Minnesota suburb for a booming city in South Korea; and Tom, seventeen, 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.
Though the U.S. spends more to educate its students than almost any other country, its teenagers rank 26th in math, below Finland (third), Korea (second), and Poland (19th). Yet in a handful of eclectic nations... virtually all kids learning critical thinking skills in math, science, and reading. Setting out to discover how this happened, veteran journalist Ripley (The Unthinkable) recounts the experiences of three American teens studying abroad for a year in the education superpowers. Fifteen-year-old Kim raises $10,000 so she can go to high school in Finland; Eric, 18, trades a leafy suburb in Minnesota for a city stacked on top of a city in South Korea; and Tom, 17, leaves Gettysburg, Pa., for Poland. In addition to these three teenagers, Ripley interviews educators, students, reform-minded education ministers, and others. In riveting prose, Ripley s cross-cultural research shows how the education superpowers value rigor above all else; the unholy alliance between sports and academics in the U.S.; why math eludes the average American teenager; what parents in the educationally successful countries do; and how the child poverty rate doesn t necessarily affect educational outcomes. This timely and inspiring book offers many insights into how to improve America s mediocre school system.
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Buy one for your friends
Eye opening book - you owe it to every child in America to read
Can't stop talking about this book!
One of the most interesting books I've read in a long time. Ripley does a great job of mixing data, her experience and her foreign exchange students to make this a page turner.
A Timely Book
An important book for American students, teachers, parents, educators and policy-makers. What remains to be seen is that after individuals from each of these groups reads ‘What Makes Kids Smart...’ will anything change.