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How are the academics in the U.S. different from the rest of the world? How are they similar?
For all our national hand-wringing about standardized testing and teacher tenure, many of us immersed in the American education debate can’t escape the nagging suspicion that something else—something cultural, [ something nearly intangible—is holding back our school system. In 1962, historian Richard Hofstadter famously dubbed it “anti-intellectualism in American life.” Teach For America
Mississippi Julia Sweeney/Teach for America “A host of educational problems has arisen from indifference,” he wrote, “underpaid teachers, overcrowded classrooms, double-schedule schools, broken-down school buildings, inadequate facilities and a number of other failings that come from something else—the cult of athleticism, marching bands, high-school drum majorettes, ethnic ghetto schools, de-intellectualized curricula, the failure to educate in serious subjects, the neglect of academically gifted children.” It would be comforting to think that since Hofstadter’s time a string of national reform initiatives—A Nation at Risk, No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, the Common Core—has addressed these issues. And though there has been some progress on the margins, journalist Amanda Ripley is here with a riveting new book, The Smartest Kids in the World, to show us exactly why, compared with many of their peers in Europe and Asia, American students are still performing below the mark. According to the OECD, 20 countries have higher high school graduation rates than the United States. Among developed nations, our children rank 17th in reading and 31st in math. Even Poland, with high child poverty rates similar to our own, boasts stronger student achievement and faster system-wide improvement. An entire education reform industry has been built off anxiety about numbers like these. And an entire body of literature exists calling these international rankings into question; for example, arguing that the OECD’s tests over-sample the United States’ poorest, least academically proficient students. ]
Expert answered|jeffreymcmillan|Points 470|
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Asked 311 days ago|9/19/2013 8:28:18 AM
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