Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Smartest Kids in the World

When Janssen tells me that a book is good, I know she is right.  I can pretty much take any recommendation she gives and be guaranteed a great read.

The Smartest Kids in the World: And How they Got That Way by Amanda Ripley is about a topic near and dear to my heart: education.

Ripley admits to not wanting to write about education for much of her career as a journalist. However, she eventually takes on an education story, and finds out a lot about the American education system and what other countries have done to create successful schools.

As an educator, I have a lot of my own ideas and beliefs about our educational system.  I have seen the things that definitely do not work in the setting I am in, and I am always amazed that the people making the decisions about education are people who are not actually in the classroom.  

This book should be on the radar of our school board, our administrators and anyone else whose decisions can impact our children. 

Ripley looks at different countries' education systems.  Not surprisingly, the United States does not score all that well when compared to other countries.  A standardized test given to students around the world puts the US in the middle of the pack.  

It puts Finland at the top. And that is not where Finland used to be, even recently.  The way Finland's education system changed is worth noting as they were once in the same position the US is now in.

There were several things that really stuck with me that I continue to think about even now a few weeks since I finished this book:

1.  Throwing money at education isn't necessarily going to solve the problem. The US spends a lot of money on education, but some countries that spend less have better education systems.

2.  Tracking students early on is more detrimental than helpful.  

3.  Teaching as a profession should be regarded as something that requires skill and knowledge and those wanting to work in this field should be required to go through rigorous training and be compensated accordingly. After all, we don't want doctors who are only marginally good at science. Why would we want teachers who are only adequate students themselves?

4.  Parental involvement isn't necessarily the answer. Having parents who read with their children and talk with them in a meaningful way is more beneficial.

5.  Homework, or time at school, doesn't necessarily translate into good grades or academic success. Students still need time off.

I seriously wish someone I know would read this book. I keep on telling everyone about it, but so far I'm still waiting to hear of someone who actually takes my suggestion.  

The Smartest Kids in the World is something I will be thinking about and talking about for a long time.

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