This book was a very interesting read. Instead of focusing solely on what’s wrong with American public education, the author instead focused in on what’s right about our system and how certain aspects of the current system need to be strengthened. His overall premise is that while we [the United States] are trying to “standardize everything” from tests to curriculum, schedules to attitudes, one of the strengths of our current system is that it allows for individual strengths and learning to shine through. Zhao was born in China in a small village and married a woman who had experienced urban Chinese schools. Together they immigrated to the United States and at the time of this writing, are watching their own children attend school in the United States. From this unique vantage point Zhao declares that “China and other nations in Asia are actually reforming their systems to be more like their American counterparts.” He implores that what really counts is “educational excellence”.
Zhao goes on to say that “how schools have to keep pace with a world that is being dramatically transformed by globalization, the “death of distance,” and digital technology” must be ascertained. He suggests that “instead of falling in line with mandates for standardization, his prescription is for educators to:
- Expand the definition of success beyond math and reading test scores.
- Personalize schooling so that every student has opportunity to learn.
- View schools as enterprises that embrace globalization and digital technology.”
In many ways, what Zhao describes is much closer to what happens in after school programs where the focus is on hands-on, experiential learning opportunities that encourage youth to work in collaborative groups, on projects that are relevant to the youth, and are just rigorous enough to be challenging but not so hard that the youth are frustrated. Check out the C4K video entitled “Engaging Activities” by clicking on this link. Additionally, you can watch Zhao on You Tube