Friday, August 9, 2013

Anti-Intellectualism in American Education

Dana Goldstein, writing for The Daily Beast, provides a review of Amanda Ripley's new book, The Smartest Kids in the World: and How They Got That Way. Goldstein's review notes the warnings of historian Richard Hofstadter, a scholar who--in the early 1960s--warned that anti-intellectualism plagued American culture, particularly education.

Hofstadter warned that American schools were suffering from a variety of maladies ranging from dumbed-down subjects to over-emphasized athletics.  Hofstadter, in the mid-1960s, won a Pulitzer Prize for Anti-Intellectualism in American Life. Goldstein cleverly cites Hofstadter to introduce her review of Amanda Ripley's new work.

Goldstein provides a brief description of how Ripley studies three American high school students who study abroad for a year in Poland, Finland, and South Korea.  In essence, these students studied in school systems far more rigorous than what is typical in the United States.

While finding some weaknesses in Ripley's analysis, Goldstein endorses the broad thesis of Smartest Kids in the World. Goldstein provocatively calls for a de-emphasis of school sports programs, along with a de-empahsis of educational gadgetry such as high-tech chalk boards and i-pads for all.

The intellect, contends Goldstein, should return to a place of primacy in American education.  It's amazing that such a notion runs counter to the current tide of American schooling.

Goldstein's review is linked below.

The Daily Beast: American Educational Failure on the World Stage

"In all of these nations [Finland, Poland, South Korea], sports have little or nothing to do with public schooling. If kids want to play hockey or basketball, they organize pick-up games, join a community program, or take private lessons. Children are held to high academic expectations and allowed to fail, so they come to understand the importance of school."
---Dana Goldstein, The Daily Beast 

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