American idols

Americans love picking winners and losers. Not so in other countries, apparently. According to The Economist, while Americans have few qualms about identifying and nurturing gifted youngsters, people in places such as Japan and Finland believe that "all children are born with the same innate abilities--and should therefore be treated alike." The question is, Are these differences of opinion influenced by culture, or is culture influenced by demography? Or possibly both? In American public schools (see here), teachers are charged not only with holding all kids to high standards and working closely with the academic stragglers, but also with challenging their bright students. This job is made even more difficult by self-proclaimed advocates of "social justice," who rail against grouping students by ability (see here). Maybe they should all move to Helsinki and Kyoto. Life in these United States ain't so simple.

"Bright sparks," The Economist, February 8, 2007 (subscription required)

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