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Juxtaposing U.S. And Chinese Schools With Lenora Chu


The state of public education is a constant concern these days -- for families, for legislators, for teachers and experts. Many are questioning methods embraced by American school systems as we see other countries besting us, particularly in math and science.

China is among the countries rising to the top. That makes us wonder: Have they figured out something about educating kids that we haven’t? Or is China simply churning out students who excel at taking tests, but who are left behind when it comes to free thought and creativity?

Lenora Chu takes a deep look at these and other questions in her [fascinating] book, Little Soldiers: An American Boy, a Chinese School, and the Global Race to Achieve.

Ms. Chu is an American writer and journalist, and the daughter of Chinese-born parents. In 2010, she and her husband, NPR’s Rob Schmitz, moved to Shanghai for work. They enrolled their young son in a top-ranked, Chinese state-run school. In addition to experiencing the school system as a parent, Ms. Chu interviewed older students, parents, and teachers, and visited schools in the countryside and in the city. The result is a first-hand account of a massive, insular education system that is at times viewed with suspicion, even as it inspires awe and admiration.

Lenora Chu holds degrees from Stanford and Columbia, and has written for many major media outlets, including CNN Money, The Christian Science Monitor and the New York Times. Little Soldiers was named an Editor’s Choice by The New York Times Book Review and Library Journal.