Jackie Robson shows why the U.S. is the globe's innovator. She's a gifted 14-year-old who skipped high school, attends Mary Baldwin College, lives in a dormitory and takes classes such as Folk Dance and Japanese 101. When reflecting on her middle-school experience, Jackie says, "Most of the stuff throughout the year I knew already. We had these worksheets with 20 questions, and it was, ‘Oh great, you're done. Here's another one.'" Such drab routines can stifle creative and curious minds. But while more than a few gifted U.S. students like Jackie have options, few students in China do. David Brooks writes in his New York Times column that the top tier of Chinese students--those who pass the national exams that reward rote learning, who follow the rules and make it through the best universities into promising jobs in the Communist Party--are richly rewarded for doing what they're told. He wonders, though, whether, in the middle of the night, any of China's smartest people ask themselves if their country can sustain its amazing economic growth when everyone, no matter how brilliant, is treated like sheep. Many parts of America's education system are bad. But it has some things going for it.

"Young, Gifted, and Skipping High School," by Maria Glod, Washington Post, December 2, 2007

"The Dictatorship of Talent," by David Brooks, New York Times, December 4, 2007

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