Amanda Ripley

 The Smartest Kids in the World


A New York Times bestseller, The Smartest Kids was published in 15 countries and chosen by The Economist, The New York Times, The Washington Post and Amazon as one of the most notable books of the year.

In a handful of nations, virtually all children are learning to make complex arguments and solve problems. They are learning to think, in other words. What is it like to be a child there?

In a global quest to find answers for our own children, journalist Amanda Ripley follows three Americans embedded in these countries for one year. Kim, 15, raises $10,000 so she can move from Oklahoma to Finland; Eric, 18, exchanges an upscale Minnesota suburb for a booming South Korean city; and Tom, 17, leaves a historic Pennsylvania village for a gritty city in Poland.

Their stories, along with groundbreaking research into what works worldwide, reveal a pattern of startling transformation: none of these places had many “smart” kids a few decades ago. They had changed. Teaching had become more serious; parents had focused on what mattered; and children had bought into the promise of education. A reporting tour de force, The Smartest Kids is a book about building resilience in a new world—as told by the young Americans with the most at stake.


“[Ripley] gets well beneath the glossy surfaces of these foreign cultures and manages to make our own culture look newly strange…The question is whether the startling perspective provided by this masterly book can also generate the will to make changes.


“Compelling...What is Poland doing right? And what is America doing wrong? Amanda Ripley, an American journalist, seeks to answer such questions in The Smartest Kids in the World, her fine new book about the schools that are working around the globe …Ms. Ripley packs a startling amount of insight in this slim book.”


“In riveting prose, Ripley's cross-cultural research shows how the education superpowers value rigor above all else...This timely and inspiring book offers many insights into how to improve America’s mediocre school system.”



If you care about education, you must read this book. By recounting what three intrepid kids learned from the rest of the world, it shows what we can learn about how to fix our schools. Ripley’s delightful storytelling has produced insights that are both useful and inspiring.”

— Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs and Benjamin Franklin

“This book gives me hope that we can create education systems of equity and rigor--if we heed the lessons from top performing countries and focus more on preparing teachers than on punishing them."

— Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers

"The most illuminating reporting I have ever seen on the differences between schools in America and abroad."