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18 March 2014


I have also been telling people that. In fact, I run an adult summer reading program almost exclusively in order to point it out. The most depressing day I ever had in a library was the one where a woman kept telling me she just wanted her son (who was with her) to read, though she didn't think books were any good or at all interesting herself.

That is SO vexing (re: the non-reading woman). I got that a lot too, as well as a lot of parents who just wanted me to hand them stuff for them to check out, that they didn't look at at all. I always wondered WHY they wanted their kids to read anything, if it wasn't something they did or cared about. I suppose: for homework. Although I was always annoyed by the parents doing their kids' homework assignments too.

Perhaps I was just easily annoyed. :)

I'm leery of these tests that show that the U.S. is lagging far behind South Korea or other countries where I've taught. While I acknowledge room for improvement, many countries are famous for outrageous levels of cheating on tests. China, South Korea and Indonesia come to mind. My Korean teachers that I trained plagiarized like mad and lied about it. The teachers read the newspaper when they proctor the exams.

Also, I've been struck by how unimaginative, poor at math and unorganized my college students in China and South Korea were. (Indonesian students didn't bother coming to class.)

I do always remember my Japanese friends thinking it odd that Americans tell their children to "Have fun!" whilst sending them off to school. Other countries tell kids to work hard. The same Japanese friend, who lives in the U.S. hired an American piano teacher for her kids when they were under 9, because the teacher would be nice, gentle and fun. Then she hired a Russian teacher, who would work the kids hard. I hate to spread stereotypes, but . . .

Well, I'm not usually a huge believer in tests of any kind, myself, as a diagnostic tool, but I found the other things in this book sufficiently interesting to make it worthwhile (particularly when learning about how much less other countries spend per child, and how much less they spend on technology in the classroom).
This author did not present the South Korean system as one to emulate, and I can't say it really sounded like a lot of fun for anyone involved. I very much appreciate your firsthand viewpoint.
That said, I think cheating is probably way more widespread in the U.S. than we realize, too.

I did find this to be a very thought-provoking read as well, and I'm glad you posted on it. I don't think Ripley was endorsing the South Korean model or the idea of taking tests as the way to an achieving student population. The test scores, while helpful, mostly just underscored her points for folks who like to have concrete numbers to go on, or some means of quantifying very different approaches to learning. Her central thesis, of trusting kids to push beyond what adults may direct them to (as in the case with the student from Oklahoma--I think it was Oklahoma--whose experience with greater trust and independence made her much more capable when she returned home) is what really stuck with me. Anyway, it's a book that I've been recommending to most of the parents I know.

I'm glad you liked this one too, and you gave a much better description than I did.
I got a real kick out of the Oklahoma kid. My favorite was when she went back to her high school, still didn't feel like she was learning much there or enjoying it, so enrolled in online school. Someone asked her if she wouldn't feel isolated that way, she pointed out she wouldn't feel any more isolated than she did in her actual high school. That was both heartbreaking and beautifully honest of the dear girl.

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