In order to make it easier to find the various portions of my review of The Smartest Kids in the World, which is important reading for anyone who doesn’t live in Finland, I’m posting this index to what I wrote about/excerpted from this book:
- Atlantic magazine article on Germany’s response to low PISA scores (look carefully at the spelling within the URL!)
2 thoughts on “Smartest Kids in the World Review”
Regarding practical tips for parents, tip #1 would be to have smart kids. #2 tip would be to be an ambitious immigrant from the “right” group (Jewish, Asian, etc.). If your kids are born dumb there is only so much you can do with them.
Regarding coaching, I am skeptical. My parents were immigrants with only elementary school educations. Even if I had asked them (which I never did) they could not have coached me in English nor in math beyond the elementary level. We had almost no books in the house (though I went to the public library a lot). But I ended up with 2 Ivy degrees.
When my daughter was in high school, we attended a local event for kids who had been enrolled in the Johns Hopkins “Study of Exceptional Talent”. To qualify, you have to get over 700 on either the verbal or math section of the SAT before your 13th birthday. Most of the parents were either S. or East Asians and all of the Asian parents were immigrants – 100%. The E. Asian parents in particular struggled with English and were clearly in no position to coach their kids in anything that required English language skills. And yet here they were. I think my daughter ended up there because I am a generation or 2 behind most American Jews – my parents arrived here after WWII, so the immigrant effect has not completely worn off yet, as it mostly has with the rest of American Jewry (for example, Jews (other than recent Soviet arrivals) have largely disappeared from the lists of American math competition winners, replaced by Asians).
Does the fluoride in the water make Americans stupid after a couple of generations? I think it has more to do with the fires of immigrant ambition, which are quenched in suburban swimming pools. That a modern American Jewish kid is pretty likely to come (like most American kids) from a family broken by divorce and to be not fully Jewish on both sides doesn’t help either.
The USA spends way too much on sports, both in school and in adulthood. I find when I walk into most “big sports fans” houses, they have very few books.
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