Few things are as important to our future as improving America's schools, and I've tried from my own perch to nudge the cause forward through my journalism, consulting life, board service, and as an appointee recently to the The Equity and Excellence Commission set up by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
One thing missing from the debate has been an accessible narrative that can bring to life the striking ways our schools have fallen behind those in the world’s best performing systems, which are now in places like Finland, South Korea and Singapore. Amanda Ripley, a talented investigative journalist for Time, The Atlantic and other magazines, has just filled this void wonderfully with her new book, “The Smartest Kids in the World--and How They Got That Way.”
Ripley followed three American kids as they studied abroad in these systems, a shrewd narrative device that lets her compare and contrast through the eyes of our kids. Her chronicle of life inside the world’s “education superpowers” holds important lessons for America in a global age. As you’ll see, Ripley’s bottom line is grim: compared to the world’s best, she says, America is simply not serious about rigorous schooling and our kids will pay the price.
I hope our conversation about ways we can elevate the teaching profession in the US will resonate. As it turns out, Amanda’s brother Ben Ripley wrote the screenplay for the very cool 2011 movie, “The Source Code,” so interesting genes run in the family.