A lot of our test frenzy has been fueled by test scores from Asia. To begin with, the deal has always been phony. Almost all Americans take the test—and most go to some sort of college. In Asia typically only the elite take the test. Hence our average is bound to be lower; our top kids test the same as theirs.
And if that was not enough, the cost to Asian kids is enormous. E.g., a 7(!)-year-old in Hong Kong committing suicide over test scores. A Japanese mother strangling to death a neighbor's 2-year-old who beat out her daughter for a pre-school slot. Moreover, research shows that given the nutty nature of the Asians' prep for the tests, the post-test retention of stuff is about zilch (lowest in the world). Thai teacher: "Students can't really read or write. All they know how to do is tick a box next to a multiple-choice question."
Perhaps the above explains at least a little of the answer to the question of why we keep producing entrepreneurs and Nobel Prize winners; we don't manage to suppress quite as much natural creativity-curiosity as our Asian friends—though our All Kids Left Behind act is trying to fix that.
(Source for a lot of this is a fascinating new book, The Overachievers: The Secret Lives of Driven Kids, by Alexandra Robbins.)
Before blogging became all the rage, Tom was posting book reviews and Observations (essentially early blog posts) to this site. You can find the archives below.
What we're talking about
on the front page.