- Audible Audiobook
- Listening Length: 7 hours and 43 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: Tantor Audio
- Audible.com Release Date: August 13, 2013
- Whispersync for Voice: Ready
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00EI6A6NS
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
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The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
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To make her case, rather than rely on data and research (for which there are plenty to support her conclusions), Ripley actually takes us deep inside schools, and show us what actually happens in them. This makes for an entertaining read, and some of her anecdotes are outright hilarious. Ripley has a clear and analytical mind, and as an outsider she offers a fresh and balanced view on what makes schools great.
My only objection is that Ripley seems so adamant about making her case that she's all too willing to ignore the complexity of the situation, and even make bold statements that weaken her argument. For example, she compares the South Korean education system to a hamster wheel in which kids are being driven to work outrageously hard, and the American system to a "moon bounce" in which kids are praised to the sky. Neither option is good, but she says she'd prefer the hamster wheel because it teaches students to work hard and to think deeply. Really?
Ripley also takes for granted certain things that are hotly debated right now. For her, a country's PISA scores is the best touchstone of academic achievement -- if students do well on the PISA, it's because they've been taught to think rigorously and deeply. (She knows because she took the PISA once, and she got one question wrong.) She also believes that the Common Core is America's best way forward. No wonder then that her book has received ringing endorsements from the likes of Wendy Kopp and Michelle Rhee.
It's unfortunate that Ripley seems to have a political agenda in writing this book. It would have been a much more interesting and enlightening book if she had just focused on telling the stories of how three American teenagers fared in faraway lands.
All in all, it is really informative, and interesting, especially about South Korea where we think the system is incredible, and kids learn a lot and blah blah blah. But then, you read the book and see that their system is not good at all for the health of its students and population.