Adventure in Normal Life / book reviews / intellectual

insights about :: the smartest kids in the world:: Part 1

I began reading this book, “the smartest kids in the world: and how they got that way”  by Amanda Ripley several months ago, back when our AC units were roaring in the background, our Zoku popsicle maker was filled with fruity layers in our freezer, and I needed to layer sunscreen instead of scarves on my way out for the day. I finally finished this thoughtful read, and as it has prodded me to consider the educational system that I was brought up in, and reconsider and observe the ones currently in place worldwide, I thought I’d share many of the bookmarked passages with you. I do recommend that you read the book, but here’s a taste along with brief flurries of commentary.

Math, Language Arts, Science, Social Studies, Physical Education, Art, Music. If you were lucky, you had these and other classes offered to you when you were growing up. These days, physical education is either relegated to 1 day/week, or not at all, during the school day. Money for the arts, music, theatre are usually the first to go in a budget. Chalk boards have been replaced by the height of technology in middle-america in places like Minnesota, with responsive white boards, and tablets. Many other changes have come about since the one-room school house days. “the smartest kids in the world” is a compilation of keen observations, one writer’s case study, of where education is today in the USA, Poland, South Korea, and Finland. Three of these countries score among the highest worldwide in education. One, my own, does not. For details on the standards and tests, you have to read the book, but each country is SO different that it is puzzling how each succeeds. This book shows us a measuring stick for education, gives us a sense of the strength of the pulse of education today, and gets one to think about the trajectory for education and potential strategies that could offer a child a lifetime of success.

I challenge you to read it. I doubt you will think about education the same afterwards.

Up Next: Part 2: insights about MATH


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4 thoughts on “insights about :: the smartest kids in the world:: Part 1

  1. Thanks for this intriguing review. Hmm. I love the title and cover of this book and education is something important for me (considering that I’m a student myself) and so would like to ask what sort of effect do you think this book would have on the student?

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    • Thanks for reading! I think the title is very catchy – who could resist knowing who the smartest kids in the world are? Of course, there isn’t a way to generalize in such a way so globally, but, if I understand your comment correctly, I think that this book can inspire students to adapt their strategies and motivations to achieve what is within their best capacities. There are some helpful practices or mindsets that students today can adopt. Students can be conscious of how they were educated, and if they have a penchant for educating personally, they can become teachers who recognize potential in their students and try to change an attitude of curriculum being “enough” to “buildable.”

      Students in other countries are brought up differently. I would expect some families who immigrated to a different country from abroad to retain some principles by which they would raise their kids. These kids would grow up with a mix of values that shape them and how they view their education, career, and future. This area is particularly interesting to me, because I personally fit into this category.

      There are also great merits to the American education philosophy as well. For instance, while test-taking helps ensure that all kids are achieving a benchmark of basic or advanced education, some kids may not test well – that still not being an excuse for underachievement – but they may have developed creative capacities and gifts which won’t be tested on a standardized exam.

      If you would like to share any thoughts here you have on being a student (wherever you hail from), I’d love to read it.

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  2. This book sounds fascinating! I’ll definitely have to give it a read. It’s interesting to learn about other countries teaching styles and see how the students are able to retain and use the course material.

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