The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way


I recommend the book The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way by Amanda Ripley.

The book explores secondary education in three countries that Ripley dubs “education superpowers” based on their PISA scores:  Finland, South Korea, and Poland.  She focuses particularly on the experiences of three American teenagers who spend a year studying in these countries as exchange students.

I do have some caveats. I’m actually pretty uncomfortable with the title and its underlying assumption that “smart” can be measured by scores on a standardized test, even one that seems to be more nuanced and sophisticated than those that US students are accustomed to taking.  Also, I can’t say that I am convinced by her final recommendations for improving American education.

But I’m recommending the book anyway, because it was highly readable and engaging, educated me about cultures and educational practices that are foreign to me, and challenged me to think differently.

—Dr. Helen Bittel, faculty

Dr. Bittel teaches Children’s Literature, Young Adult Literature, and Victorian Literature. She shares articles and blogs about education regularly on her personal Facebook page, so follow her there if the subject interests you!


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