Article about how America's strength is in innovation, not rote learning
April 23, 2014 10:33 AM   Subscribe

I remember reading something, possible in the New York Times, arguing that while America's high-school students don't stack up very well against students of countries, our strength has always been in innovation rather than mastery of skills acquired by rote. Any idea where I saw this?

It seems unGoogleable. And (regardless of what you think of the merit of this argument; I know it sounds rather defensive about our school system) have you seen any other research essentially supporting or refuting this?
posted by Ollie to Education (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I read an article about this maybe a year ago or so. It was mostly about India's middle class, and how the (minister of the economy? something like that?) had expected that the IT jobs coming to India would have created the right environment for a new Silicon Valley. However, it had not done so, and he attributed it to the different education styles (rote memorization versus one that inspires creativity). The article then went into this in more detail, but the starting point was about India. Does that sound like the article you read?
posted by Houstonian at 10:50 AM on April 23, 2014

I would try searching the NYT archives -- especially Thomas Friedman's stuff, it sounds like an article he has written about a billion times. You can search his columns specifically from his profile page here.
posted by phoenixy at 11:01 AM on April 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is a commonly presented thesis. I remember reading a study on this as long ago as grad school, so... 2001? That one contrasted the comparatively low standardized test scores of American youth to Japanese students to the comparatively high rates of patents from the US. The idea that standardised tests promote standardised thinking to the detriment of innovation is an old one.

Here is a recent article from Education Week discussing the same idea.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:04 AM on April 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is an evergreen topic and there have probably been dozens of articles about this exact topic. It's not hard to find many by googling.

Forbes: Can Asians Innovate?
Financial Times: Rote learning is no answer to a search for heroes
NY Times: Even Gifted Students Can’t Keep Up
NY Times: American Students Test Well in Problem Solving, but Trail Foreign Counterparts

I suspect it's hard to google simply because there are so many articles on the topic.
posted by GuyZero at 11:06 AM on April 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

This recent Education Week article isn't from the NY Times, but it describes how American students do well on the PISA problem solving exam.

Oh, I see this was posted above. Seconding that this is what you might have seen a few weeks back.
posted by jeffch at 11:37 AM on April 23, 2014

I got a book from the thrift shop about this. It was published maybe in the early 90's?
posted by eq21 at 4:06 PM on April 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

thanks everyone. I think it might have been the article Houstonian is referring to, which is why it's hazy. But all of these are helpful. Thanks again.
posted by Ollie at 10:05 AM on April 29, 2014

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