Cutting class to smoke behind the bleachers. Playing Call of Duty until 3:00AM and sleeping through U.S. History class. Snapchatting selfies during study hall. They did all that, and more—and they had the time of their lives.
In her new book, The Dumbest Kids in the World, author Mananda Pipley follows three exchange students from high-achieving nations across the globe who spent a year in the United States: Wei, from Shanghai, spent nine months in Tallahassee; Singaporean Remy found herself in Abilene, Texas; and Canadian Jake walked across the unsecured northern border to Bemidji, Minnesota.
All three were thrilled that, in America, high school is “not at all” about academics. “At first I was a little worried that my math class covered topics I learned in sixth grade,” Remy explained, waiting next to the locker of a boy she had a crush on after lunch one day. “But then I went to my first football game, and I realized that high school is not about your future—it is about experiences now. And what other people think of you. And Pizza Fridays. High school is definitely about Pizza Fridays.”
Jake, on a gap year before starting university, said it was “aboot time” that he got a break. “I worked hard in high school,” he said, roll of toilet paper in hand, during one particularly “quintessentially cultural” night. “I needed a rest from responsibilities and expectations. And it’s America. Even if I got arrested, it’s not like it counts, eh?”
Wei, a middling student in China, was thrilled to find himself at the top of the class at his new school, despite developing a minor addiction to online gaming. His academic prowess also earned him friends—and quite a bit of money, as he opened a tutoring business and used his basic knowledge of statistics to regularly clean up at an illicit lunchtime poker ring.
Education analysts, for their part, seemed unsurprised by the students’ findings. “At least they didn’t follow a Finnish student,” said one sullen think-tank president. “My God, I’m so sick of the Finns.”
SOURCE: Mananda Pipley, The Dumbest Kids in the World (Absaraka, North Dakota: Seems Legit Publishing, April 2014).