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Chris DeMuth Jr. is the founder of Rangeley Capital LLC. Rangeley is an investment firm that focuses on event driven, value-oriented investment opportunities. Rangeley Capital and his value investing forum, Sifting the World (StW), search the world for misplaced bets. Rangeley exploits them for... More
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  • It's A Small World After All… And It's Going To Eat Our Lunch 19 comments
    Sep 10, 2013 5:13 PM

    I just received my first school social studies outline for my son, one-third of which was dedicated to "celebrating diversity". In Hong Kong, Chinese students are working on maths (ranked number one on mean performance on mathematics scale)… my kids will be celebrating diversity (ranked down at number 28, although I have little doubt that we could come up with a cheer celebrating "we're number 28"). In South Korea, students are reading (coming in at number two internationally)… my kids will be celebrating diversity (but don't ask them to read about it; they are down at the 23rd best readers compared to their international competitors). Number one ranked Japanese students are hard at work in hard sciences… meanwhile my kids are off celebrating diversity (with superb self-esteem undimmed by their 27th rank in science).

    The classroom and the global economy are competitive, contact sports. Were I a parent or scholar in Asia, I would be thrilled to know that my competition was wasting so much time and energy on a topic that could be easily distilled down to a quick, "class, please respect each other. Now open your text books to page one". We would still be behind the Chinese who doubtlessly skipped that first sentence and saved the time to focus on work, but at least we would still have a fighting chance.

    It is good that the school system is preparing my kids to be so nice to minorities, because in a few decades my kids will be working for them.

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Comments (19)
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  • gsterling
    , contributor
    Comments (1423) | Send Message
    I think you're being overly pessimistic. I still believe America has some of the brightest minds and we live in a country that gives us the freedom to be creative and successful. Remember when Japan was taking over the world in the 80's? They said the US was doomed then.


    Do I think we can do a better job in our schools? Sure. Do I want us to operate like China? Heck no. They basically go to school to take one test at the end of high school which is what determines what university they go to (if any). Many kids stop going to school after they are 15 since it's no longer free after that point. They might drill science and math into their heads 24/7, but most of them are robots with zero sense of individualism. Most of the successful people in China I read about are people who studied in the US or other countries (at least at the college level). I'd take our top students over theirs any day.
    10 Sep 2013, 08:54 PM Reply Like
  • Chris DeMuth Jr.
    , contributor
    Comments (11123) | Send Message
    Author’s reply » That is reassuring. Thanks for the comments.
    10 Sep 2013, 09:40 PM Reply Like
  • nuclear stocks
    , contributor
    Comments (186) | Send Message
    I do modeling for a living. I read lots of European and U.S.A. literature on modeling (Not so much Asia, they are not interesting in my kind of models). My conclusion on math education in Europe from reading the scientific literature? European schools do not give enough story problems.
    10 Sep 2013, 09:39 PM Reply Like
  • Chris DeMuth Jr.
    , contributor
    Comments (11123) | Send Message
    Author’s reply » Very interesting. Thanks.
    10 Sep 2013, 09:41 PM Reply Like
  • bazooooka
    , contributor
    Comments (3686) | Send Message
    You make some valid points. It's not all so dire since we still have the best entrepreneurs in the world. Nevertheless technical work will be farmed out overseas for decades to come.


    However, if young americans find themselves weak in hard disciplines and not so skillful in soft disciplines (sales, etc) than we might end up with a lot of college grad barista types. Liberal art majors are now facing unemployment numbers that rival HS graduates who presumably will at least take the $15 job if they can get it.
    10 Sep 2013, 10:56 PM Reply Like
  • Chris DeMuth Jr.
    , contributor
    Comments (11123) | Send Message
    Author’s reply » I hope that you continue to be right about the entrepreneurs.
    11 Sep 2013, 05:43 AM Reply Like
  • Maulik Patel
    , contributor
    Comments (54) | Send Message
    Competition begets competition. Any lack of competition leads to stagnation. Much as we see in monopolies and duopolies.


    It's not enough to succeed among the weak. To survive one must desire to be the lion.
    10 Sep 2013, 11:20 PM Reply Like
  • Chris DeMuth Jr.
    , contributor
    Comments (11123) | Send Message
    Author’s reply » Well said.
    11 Sep 2013, 05:42 AM Reply Like
  • HFI
    , contributor
    Comments (1692) | Send Message
    My cousin in Shanghai (5th grade) is learning geometry. They learn that I believe in 9th grade in the U.S.


    11 Sep 2013, 08:26 AM Reply Like
  • Chris DeMuth Jr.
    , contributor
    Comments (11123) | Send Message
    Author’s reply » Yikes is right. Good for your cousin in Shanghai. It will serve him well. I'm sure that with hard work he can handle it and that the mastery of the subject will bring him joy. Americans have a lot to learn; we might as well start learning from what is already working.
    11 Sep 2013, 08:35 AM Reply Like
  • John N
    , contributor
    Comments (36) | Send Message
    Why study when you could work on becoming the next Kim Kardashian instead?


    Good post, although I will say America's capitalist values and creativity still provide an edge. Rote mathematics will only take you so far.
    11 Sep 2013, 09:03 AM Reply Like
  • Maulik Patel
    , contributor
    Comments (54) | Send Message
    In high school - we should be taught through calculus III, linear algebra and differential equations. When I have the joy of raising a kid, I'll make sure they understand these skills along with whatever other pursuits they desire.
    11 Sep 2013, 09:10 AM Reply Like
  • JDanziger
    , contributor
    Comments (68) | Send Message
    US kids rank very high in self esteem/confidence. Not so much in skills, as you pointed out. But the good news is confidence is very highly correlated with business success, so maybe it'll bail us out. otherwise, the size, drive, and intelligence of the next generation in these countries will pose a major threat.
    11 Sep 2013, 10:38 AM Reply Like
  • jacobtr
    , contributor
    Comments (781) | Send Message
    Correlation does not equal causation. Confidence could be highly correlated with competence, which could be a cause of success. If we skip the competence and go straight for that confidence, the correlation could weaken.
    11 Sep 2013, 11:51 AM Reply Like
  • jaginger
    , contributor
    Comments (813) | Send Message
    High "self-esteem" has been shown to exhibit a negative influence on results.
    12 Sep 2013, 08:50 AM Reply Like
  • sheldond
    , contributor
    Comments (1448) | Send Message
    Suicide rates of students aside......I would agree that the motivation and discipline of our students is a concern. If you rely on others to provide a well rounded excellent education in the USA, you are deluding yourself. You must supplement and attend to your children's development even if your child goes to a 30k a year private school.


    These averages are misleading and include well respected institutions such as the state of Alabama.......


    Plus in many of these countries non academic kids are moved out of their academic programs at an earlier age. Even our most challenged delinquents count against us.


    If you take our top students, they can compete against anyone plus they demonstrate a problem solving ability and creativity unmatched in the dogged system of some of our Asian competitors. Although it lessens the amount of engineering jobs available.


    This comes from being motivated academically despite it being outside of the norm.


    Statistics, more statistics and damn liars......... You decide the truth!




    11 Sep 2013, 11:18 AM Reply Like
  • gsterling
    , contributor
    Comments (1423) | Send Message
    "Plus in many of these countries non academic kids are moved out of their academic programs at an earlier age. Even our most challenged delinquents count against us."


    Good point.


    Chris - A little while back you posted a link to an article which basically said 'stupid' kids should go to a technical school. While I disagreed with a lot of what the author said it kind of backs up the point that sheldond just made. Some kids just aren't cut out for school. In many of these other countries students just leave the system if they can't make it. In this country you go to high school until you graduate or reach 18 like it or not.


    Many high schools offer all types of AP courses for students that are ahead of the rest of the pack and want to get credit for college courses. I'd like to know if there are any studies out there which compare our top students to other countries. To me that would be a better indicator of whether or not taking social studies instead of more math is holding our kids back. Besides Social Studies lessons in China are much quicker since as we all know nothing happened in Tiananmen Square and the Communist Party knows what's best for you.
    11 Sep 2013, 11:39 AM Reply Like
  • Maulik Patel
    , contributor
    Comments (54) | Send Message
    Aptitutde is a prequisite to suceeding. Without quantitative skills confidence/self esteem are not valuable traits.


    If you are a cocksure quarterback and make mistakes, time will rear it's ugly head, eventually the coach wil bench you. In the case of the U.S. at a certain point, if we lack technical skills, our GDP will shrink.


    As an economy you kill what you eat.
    11 Sep 2013, 11:18 AM Reply Like
  • connellybarnes
    , contributor
    Comments (552) | Send Message
    The public school system was created in the late 1800s to create compliant workers for the factory system. Often there is lots of funding for students who are behind but not so much for excellence. Any student who gets out of the system early causes loss of profit, so it's more of a holding pen than something that encourages excellence.


    I remember studying often computer programming, math, physics, because I was bored out of my mind with most of the schoolwork (I later majored in those 3). I agree math + science + computing subjects are very important, because they let us create positive sum games, unlike say investing. Also I expect almost all labor to be replaced by computing in this century.


    Many of the private math and science high schools are excellent.


    I believe most of the public schools are underfunded and actually would be funded much more highly in a pure market economy because of a tragedy of the commons type phenomenon where the performance signals (future career of students) are highly decoupled from the pricing signals (bureaucracy, taxation, inability to fire bad people, hire good people, even if you do pay more taxes will it actually improve your student's career, ...). The political solution I guess would be to privatize and then subsidize those who can't afford the private schools.


    But more practically since there is insufficient value provided, it means to treat school as a beginning and find ways to go far beyond that. If I have a kid I'll be teaching them algebra and calculus in elementary school :-)
    11 Sep 2013, 11:40 AM Reply Like
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