The Russians Japanese Chinese Moms Are Coming!

In this week’s School of Thought column at I take a look at international test score data. Should you worry?  Some.  Should you panic?  No.  Our real problem is not in Shanghai it’s in South Central.

Concern about falling behind internationally is one of America’s most popular education anxieties. This week’s visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao — plus all the chatter about Amy Chua’s new book on why Chinese-style “tiger moms” raise more successful children than Americans do — serve as uncomfortable reminders that the kids in Shanghai did astronomically well on a set of international tests released last month, whereas U.S. kids came in 17th.

That makes us sound pretty lame. But the extremists at both ends of the education spectrum — i.e., those telling us international tests are meaningless and those claiming the scores are a sure sign that the sky is falling — are wrong. Here are five reasons why you should ignore the hysterical commentary (followed by a commonsense look at what you should care about instead)…

Read the entire thing here.

5 Replies to “The Russians Japanese Chinese Moms Are Coming!”

  1. Well put—the angst over Shanghai’s scores on PISA is a little silly.

    I’m surprised that so many people are talking about Chua’s book. So two Ivy League parents produced two children who are, so far, successful adults. So what? I’m betting that in her same zip code there are other Ivy League couples who took the opposite parenting approach and had the same happy results.

  2. I am at my wits end. Today I read on the internet (about the International test scores) that #*&#@*! Arne Duncan had the audacity to say “For me, it’s a wake-up call…..Our goal should be absolutely to lead the world in education.”
    I’m sure that many people write to you and to the Nat’l Dept. of Education, but last month I sent Arne an 8-page ‘wake-up’ call (attached) – – based on my own 18 years of research. His quote is pure ‘lip service’.
    Finland is doing the right thing, mostly. In a few years China will be lagging behind (possibly with us) because they will end up doing the same wrong things that we have been doing for the past 20 – 30 years and Finland will still be on top… if we want to rank next to them or above them, then we need to do something equal or better….
    What do these top ranking countries have in common? We’re ranking 30 on math, so obviously we aren’t doing the math but we also refuse to recognize the variables in the math equation — (and by the way, I just spent 5 years teaching at a Japanese school, I understand rather well how the Asians operate).
    You will probably laugh at the simplicity and seemingly insignificant common trait among these top ranking nations ; They wait until the age of 6 or 7 to begin academic studying and training.
    In today’s World news page on the internet, it was reported that Chinese students went to school for 41 days more than we did – perhaps! But, there was a time that we ranked at the top or near the top and we didn’t need 41 extra days of school – however, during that era, we were also never imposing academic learning on children 5 years old or younger. Back then elementary school was 1 – 12, and earlier than that it was pre-K – K. We have removed the ‘K’ from preK – K and moved it to ‘K – 12’.
    The Finns, The Chinese, The Japanese – they still know the difference and they are probably laughing at us, cause we’re too pompous to see it. And do you really think the Chinese will clue us in? Good luck waiting for that. Real solutions are always too simple and we have become too sophisticated to recognize simplicity.
    Look again at the Finnish school system – we are doing everything opposite to what they are doing, and then wondering why we are plummeting in our skills. They wait until age 6 or 7 to begin academics. The Finnish preschool children have stability because they have the same teacher throughout their preschool years – in high school, students hardly get tested. What are we doing? We are making preschool children read (and do too much left-brain tasks too early), we devalue the role of preschool teachers, children are constantly subject to teacher turnovers (on top of spending more time at preschool than with their own parents – who they are supposed to get their emotional intelligence development from, or should I say, their desire and motives for learning). Then, when they get into the upper grades we are testing the heck out of them, rather than teaching them.
    The final insult – Finns go to college for free – doctor, lawyer, whatever, and guess what else? They do spend less for the total education of each child from preschool to college graduation – – we keep pouring money into doing education the wrong way but we are totally unwilling to spend the money to do education the correct way. Perhaps we are willing to spend the money, but if you look a the whole picture, the answer is obvious. What we are unwilling to do is change our minds – our way of thinking and we are definitely unwilling to do the math…
    Yes, Finnish school teachers probably make a little less than our American school teachers, but they love their jobs and they are respected.
    The only way to remedy our situation and anticipate the possibility of exceeding all of those countries in the future is to reform early education and promote public awareness about the early stages of development – AND besides, ALL of the evidence and data from Neurophysiology and Cognitive Neuro-science points to the obvious – but too obvious to consider – – that the only way we’ll salvage ourselves within this academic nightmare is to change our concepts, understanding and system of early education (and early literacy development is NOT the clue or the venue).

    Written by Carla A. Woolf the author of Connecting the Dots: The Cognitively Correct (r) Way to Speak with Preschoolers. copyright 2007 – Submitted by Bryce Conway of Cognitively Correct, Inc.

  3. This snippet of the article states,”Our real problem is not in Shanghai it’s in South Central”. No where in the original article did it say this. I’m curious where the information came from. The real problem probably cannot be attributed to any one thing. More than likely it is a mixture of lack of parental supervision and guidance, poor expectations of the public schools and parents, and the acceptance of lower educational standards in our schools. To somehow imply that this is a problem with “South Central” (and I can only guess that the author means South Central Black American families as this is the most often used connotation) is over simplifying and misguided. Poor education scores encompass location, social strata, parental education, poor school systems, teacher unions, and many other factors. I’m a homeschooling Black American mother, and I know that Black Americans are mostly represented in a negative manner in popular media. However, this can’t be the basis of stating that American’s scores are attributed to “South Central”. Not all Black parents are absent, and not all white parents are around. There are poor parents who work hard to educate their children and rich parents who let their kids goof off. Lets put the emphasis back where it belongs….on parents, education standards, and accountability.

  4. Finland is small and has a homgenous population. THAT is why it’s education system is successful.

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