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Thursday, January 3, 2008

Nurturing Neurons: Local, Organic, or Imported?
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As it watches the hypergrowth of the surrounding hypernations, Japan becomes insecure about the quality of its educational system, long considered one of the world's best. So, says the New York Times, the nation is rushing to emulate Indian teaching techniques:

Bookstores are filled with titles like “Extreme Indian Arithmetic Drills” and “The Unknown Secrets of the Indians.” Newspapers carry reports of Indian children memorizing multiplication tables far beyond nine times nine, the standard for young elementary students in Japan.

And Japan’s few Indian international schools are reporting a surge in applications from Japanese families.

At the Little Angels English Academy & International Kindergarten, the textbooks are from India, most of the teachers are South Asian, and classroom posters depict animals out of Indian tales. The kindergarten students even color maps of India in the green and saffron of its flag.

U.S. public schools could learn a lot from any of these Asian nations, or the Europeans, for that matter. And American parents could surely learn something about valuing education from their Asian counterparts. Of course, Asia doesn't have all the answers. In fact, most of their recent success is because they are adopting our capitalist economic ideas.

But in the meantime, as we struggle to improve our schools, what does the U.S. think it is doing by strictly limiting legal immigration and visas for supersmart people from all over the world? Japan has to focus exclusively on indigenous education because it allows virtually no immigration. Fortunately, America can rely on both home-grown and imported human capital -- at least in theory. At the moment, however, we don't seem to be nurturing either source of smarts like we should.

I've just begun Amy Chua's new book Day of Empire, which argues that hyperpowers rise through tolerance and meritocracy -- and fall when they insulate themselves (become intolerant) to outside people and ideas. After the Introduction, at least, it rings pretty true.

posted by Bret Swanson @ 3:22 PM | Human Capital

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We appear to be very insular as a nation and have not yet acknowledged as a group that we live and thrive in a global economy. We are also very 'comfortable' in the sense that our basic needs such as food, clothing and shelter are well provided. This cultural view permeates throughout every facet of our society and I would contend affects our perspective. Just consider the emphasis our nation places on the importance of sports and entertainment as contrasted with developing and creating business. As an example, contrast the amount of money a top athlete and a CEO of a major corporation earn. Very few outcrys over the athlete's income, in fact our society praises the top athletes. But what about the CEO who has responsibility for thousands or workers and is creating significant economic wealth? Think about the criticism of a CEO's income. Who provides more value to our society, the top athelet or the top business professional? What cultural message are we sending to the children, who respresent our future, of this country? Think about the amount of emphasis placed on the children of America toady with respect to develoment in athletics - the travel teams, the indivdual lessons, the games at all hours of the night. I am not bashing athletics, far from it, but seek to point out that our cultural emphasis or fabric is changing.

While we continue to insulate ourselves, countries such as China and India representing approximately 2.4 billion people in the world emphasize intellectual development and hard work. There is an insightful documentary that was recently created contrasting American education, and value, with India and China. It is titled 'Two Million Minutes' and represents the approximate amount of time a student will spend in high school. Those minutes represent in part the economic future of a nation. It is recommended to anyone concerned about the cultural shift and what is occuring globally.

Posted by: David Adams at January 10, 2008 9:58 AM

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