Two Million Minutes has done a good job of drawing attention to educational disparities around the world. I’ve been somewhat annoyed with it, though, for its lack of ideas on how to solve America’s education problems. For example, it’s true that many Asian students spend more time than their American peers on schoolwork. But if the typical U.S. school is doing a bad job, surely adding an hour or two onto the school day isn’t going to transform them into high-quality institutions overnight. Then this morning I read the Two Million Minutes blog and was very pleasantly surprised:
President Obama is correct–there is a remarkable amount of innovation and success taking place in American education–most of it outside of the public school system.
At last, Two Million Minutes recognizes that there are different kinds of schools in the United States, and some are doing well. It goes on to discuss successful private schools and charter schools. (One minor point: charter schools are public schools too. They just face different rules and incentives from traditional public schools.)
Two Millions Minutes has posted some videos of young students learning Mandarin Chinese and Spanish at the Renaissance School in Florida. This private school’s curriculum looks impressive: accelerated math, lots of foreign language time, clear goals for science and history. It even has its own blog with links to articles about U.S. and Asian education.
However, there is a downside of the focus on Asian education. Asian educational programs are great, if that’s what parents want. We need to concentrate on creating an education market full of innovative choices — not on requiring everyone to learn two languages and algebra by fourth grade. As an illustration of the dangers of obsessing over achievement, look at this news story, linked to from the Renaissance School blog. It’s about a father who wants his daughter to go live with people who are more intellectual than he and his wife are, all for the sake of better mental cultivation. I think that’s even more bizarre than Nadya Suleman.