Critical Thinkers Wanted? Visit a Waldorf School to find The Smartest Kids in the World.

SmartestKidsintheWorld_RipleyAmericans are forever being reminded that our students are falling behind those in other countries. In a handful of nations, children are learning to make complex arguments and solve problems they’ve never seen before, according to an international test of critical thinking. These kids are learning to think, which will prepare them to thrive in the modern economy.

A new book from Amanda Ripley, a contributor to Time magazine and The Atlantic and an Emerson fellow at the New America Foundation, explores how countries like Finland, South Korea and Poland are consistently beating out American students and achieving exceptional results in education.

In The Smartest Kids in the World, Ripley cites the depressing statistic that American 15-year-olds perform about 26th in the world in a test of critical thinking in math, 17th in science and 12th in reading. And our high school graduation rate is now below that of about 20 other nations.

In top-rated countries for education, becoming a teacher is a high status and relatively highly compensated career choice.  Teachers are amongst the best and brightest, and are compensated and respected accordingly.

Beyond investing in teachers (and not just new technologies), Ripley proposes some fairly simple solutions to strengthen the US educational system:  “What we want to do is fewer things better. So fewer tests that are smarter, less homework that is more challenging makes kids have to think, even less parental involvement that’s more targeted at things that actually lead to learning.”  She adds that the kinds of tasks our schools ask children to do are “typically not strongly related to raising a kid who’s able to think critically and solve problems and make an argument.”

With more than 1000 schools worldwide, Waldorf is the fastest growing educational movement with many parents seeking out a Waldorf education as an alternative to traditional private and public school education options. A Waldorf education fosters critical thinking and creative problem-solving, while instilling intrinsic ethical and moral codes, and promoting a true life-long love of learning.

The Waldorf curriculum addresses the physical, emotional and intellectual needs of the growing child and maturing adolescent through direct experience with lesson material, the introduction of subject matter in an age-appropriate fashion, and providing purposeful activities.

According to a recent study of Waldorf graduates:, 92% placed a high value on critical thinking.  What’s more:

  • 94% attended college or university
  • 47% chose humanities or arts as a major
  • 42% chose sciences or math as a major
  • 89% are highly satisfied in choice of occupation
  • 91% are active in lifelong education
  • 90% highly values tolerance of other viewpoints

To learn more about the Waldorf educational method or to visit the Seacoast Waldorf School, serving children throughout Southern Maine, coastal New Hampshire and Northern Massachusetts, ages 2.5 through eighth grade, call 207-439-7911 or visit www.seacoastwaldorfschool.org

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