The Smartest Kids in the World
And How They Got That Way
By Amanda Ripley
(Simon & Schuster, Hardcover, 9781451654424, 320pp.)
Publication Date: August 13, 2013
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How Do Other Countries Create “Smarter” Kids? In a handful of nations, virtually all children are learning to make complex arguments and solve problems they’ve never seen before. They are learning to think, in other words, and to thrive in the modern economy. What is it like to be a child in the world’s new education superpowers? In a global quest to find answers for our own children, author and Time magazine journalist Amanda Ripley follows three Americans embedded in these countries for one year. Kim, fifteen, raises $10,000 so she can move from Oklahoma to Finland; Eric, eighteen, exchanges a high-achieving Minnesota suburb for a booming city in South Korea; and Tom, seventeen, leaves a historic Pennsylvania village for Poland. Through these young informants, Ripley meets battle-scarred reformers, sleep-deprived zombie students, and a teacher who earns $4 million a year. Their stories, along with groundbreaking research into learning in other cultures, reveal a pattern of startling transformation: none of these countries had many “smart” kids a few decades ago. Things had changed. Teaching had become more rigorous; parents had focused on things that mattered; and children had bought into the promise of education. A journalistic tour de force, The Smartest Kids in the World is a book about building resilience in a new world—as told by the young Americans who have the most at stake.
Amanda Ripley is a literary journalist whose stories on human behavior and public policy have appeared in TIME, The Atlantic, and Slate and helped Time win two National Magazine Awards. To discuss her work, she has appeared on ABC, NBC, CNN, FOX News, and NPR. Ripley’s first book, The Unthinkable, was published in fifteen countries and turned into a PBS documentary.
-Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
"If you care about education, you must read this book. By recounting what three intrepid kids learned from the rest of the world, it shows what we can learn about how to fix our schools. Ripley's delightful storytelling has produced insights that?are both useful and inspiring."
-Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs and Benjamin Franklin
"This is a no-nonsense, no-excuses book about how we can improve outcomes for all kids, from the poorest to the wealthiest. It avoids platitudes and ideology and relies instead on the experiences of?students."
-Joel Klein, CEO, Amplify, and former chancellor, New York Department of Education
"This book gives me hope that we can create education systems of equity and rigor if we heed the lessons from top performing countries and focus more on preparing teachers than on punishing them."
-Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers
"Amanda Ripley observes with rare objectivity and depth. She finds a real and complex world over there, schools with flaws of their own but also real and tangible lessons about how to do better by our kids. The Smartest Kids in the World gave me more insights, as a parent and as an educator, than just about anything else I've read in a while."
-Doug Lemov, author of Teach Like a Champion
"Such an important book! Amanda Ripley lights the path to engaging our next generation to meet a different bar. She makes an enormous contribution to the national and global discussion about what must be done to give all our children the education they need to invent the future."
-Wendy Kopp, founder and chair, Teach For America, and CEO, Teach For All