The Smartest Kids in the World: The Movie


When I traveled around the world for my last book, following American kids in higher performing education systems, I brought a camera. I took a bunch of extremely amateurish video, mostly of students' feet--to protect the privacy of random kids in classrooms and hallways.

Later, when talking to audiences about the book, I would show these short, fairly crappy video clips to illustrate a point. And something amazing happened: it was like I'd cast a spell over the audience. Literally, their faces would light up as they watched Kim from Oklahoma walk to school in Finland or Eric from Minnesota catch the subway in Korea.

The lesson: there is nothing like the emotional power of video. Nothing written down has quite that impact.

Which is why I am so excited to share this news. The Smartest Kids in the World is now a documentary film. Inspired by the book, the award-winning filmmaker Tracy Droz Tragos followed four new American teenagers to four countries for one school year. The film literally transports us, alongside the students. We get to see these remarkable American kids boarding their planes in Wyoming and Florida, revealing their hopes and fears to other kids in their borrowed countries. We discover what they miss about America—and what they don’t. It is a dazzling, mind-opening ride, and you emerge with a new imagination for what is possible.

At a time when many countries are closing inward, hunkering down in response to change and fear, this is a film about young Americans doing the opposite. They are charging out into the world, convinced that there must be ways to adapt to a changing world and to learn from one another, rather than turning on each other.

World premiere is Nov. 11, 2018, in NYC. Hope to see some of you there. More details here.