Benbrook Library / Books

Patron Review: The Smartest Kids in the World


This week, we have a guest post from Linda R., a library patron and BARC participant. In order to fulfill the requirements of the “Everyone’s a Critic” task, Linda has written a summary/review of The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way by Amanda Ripley. Hearty thanks to Linda for providing content. Here is her review:

The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way by Amanda Ripley follows three exchange students from America as they spend a year in other countries going to school. The countries chosen are South Korea, Finland, and Poland, all of which are known for their outstanding education systems. Amanda Ripley wants to know why these countries have better education systems than the United States and what better way to find out than to compare the systems, not only by talking to teachers and administrators, but also through the eyes of those who have to live within the system – the students.  The findings are eye opening. All of the reasons we have been given as to why the United States education is lagging others throughout the world are brought into question and shown to be lacking. These other countries do have a diverse population and yet the students out-perform U.S. students. The students are facing extreme poverty and yet the students out-perform U.S. students. One area where there is a notable difference in the schools of other countries is in the area of technology. Is the U.S. lacking here? No, actually the United States has more technology in the classroom than any of the other countries, yet still the U.S. students are behind. What actually is the difference? It seems to lie in the importance of education to the country as a whole.  The students in the other countries come to school and expect to learn, to be taught. The expectations are higher and the students, for the most part, rise to the expectations.  Sports do not seem to be emphasized as much at school. Sports, as recreation, does exist, but it considered something done after school, not as part of school. The money provided to the school is to be used for education, not a sports program. Another difference noted in the book is the importance of teacher education. Schools that exist to educate the teachers are difficult to get into and hard to graduate from. A person with a teaching degree is respected as much as one with a degree in medicine or law or engineering.  In all the book is very enlightening and asks several questions. It does not, however, provide the answers. Some of what works in other countries could work her, but it would require a mindshft, one that values teachers as much as sports figures and entertainers. Some of what is present in other countries, the intense pressure of the South Korean system, we would not want in our country. In all, if you have children in school in America or know of some, this book is very informative.

-Linda R.

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