Complaining about the country's education system is a favorite pastime of many American parents, but why don't - or can't - we change the way we educate our children?
Author Amanda Ripley decided to investigate by enlisting "field agents" of American students who studied abroad at Finnish, South Korean, and Polish schools.
Here's what she found out:
“If you want the American dream, go to Finland.” These blunt words from a British politician, quoted by Amanda Ripley in “The Smartest Kids in the World” [...]
[American student named Kim, who went to a typical Finnish school] soon notices something else that’s different about her school in Pietarsaari, and one day she works up the courage to ask her classmates about it. “Why do you guys care so much?” Kim inquires of two Finnish girls. “I mean, what makes you work hard in school?” The students look baffled by her question. “It’s school,” one of them says. “How else will I graduate and go to university and get a good job?”
It’s the only sensible answer, of course, but its irrefutable logic still eludes many American students, a quarter of whom fail to graduate from high school. Ripley explains why: Historically, Americans “hadn’t needed a very rigorous education, and they hadn’t gotten it. Wealth had made rigor optional.” But now, she points out, “everything had changed. In an automated, global economy, kids needed to be driven; they need to know how to adapt, since they would be doing it all their lives. They needed a culture of rigor.”