Give us your energetic, your geniuses …

To heck with the tired, poor and huddled. Give Us Your Geniuses, write Adam Ozimek and Noah Smith in The Atlantic. From the earliest days, the U.S. has enjoyed “the ability to attract and retain a huge number of the world’s best and brightest,” they write. We drew smart Scots, “the intellectual and technological elite of the British Empire.” In early 1900s and he Nazi era, a “windfall” of Jewish immigrants yielded scientists and entrepreneurs.

In the late 20th Century, a wave of immigration from Taiwan did the same, giving us (for example) the man who revolutionized AIDS treatment (David Ho), as well as the founders of YouTube, Zappos, Yahoo, and Nvidia. In fact, immigrants or the children of immigrants have founded or co-founded nearly every legendary American technology company, including Google, Intel, Facebook, and of course Apple (you knew that Steve Jobs’ father was named Abdulfattah Jandali, right?).

Taking many more high-skilled immigrants is a no-brainer, they argue.

High-skilled immigrants are not just good at their jobs. They create jobs. . . More than half of the start-ups in Silicon Valley, for instance, were started by immigrants, along with 25% of venture-backed companies that went public between 1990 and 2006.

In addition, high-skilled immigrants are innovators as well. Economists Jennifer Hunt and Marjolaine Gauthier-Loiselle find that a 1% increase in the share of immigrant college graduates in the population increases patents per capita by as much as 9-18%, after accounting for the “positive spillovers” by which HSI boost innovation by native-born inventors.

Living in Silicon Valley, I know many high-tech entrepreneurs from the three I’s, Israel, Ireland and India. These are very smart people with very smart children. My husband, who’s helped start several Silicon Valley companies, has worked with many Indians, quite a few Italians, Chinese, of course, and, well, you name it.

Report: Education failure puts U.S. at risk

Educational failure threatens our economic prosperity, global leadership and national security, according to a report by a Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) task force chaired by Joel I. Klein, former head of New York City public schools, and Condoleezza Rice, former U.S. secretary of state.

Too many young people are not employable in an increasingly high-skilled and global economy, and too many are not qualified to join the military because they are physically unfit, have criminal records, or have an inadequate level of education.

“Human capital will determine power in the current century, and the failure to produce that capital will undermine America’s security,” the report states. “Large, undereducated swaths of the population damage the ability of the United States to physically defend itself, protect its secure information, conduct diplomacy, and grow its economy.”

Among other policy suggestions, the report calls for expanding Common Core Standards to include “the skills and knowledge necessary to safeguard the country’s national security,” including science, technology, foreign languages, creative problem-solving skills and civic awareness.

Update:  History, science and art are “truant” from school, said panelists at a  Common Core discussion. Common Core will be creating Common Core State Standards-based curriculum maps in history and geography. David Coleman, one of the lead writers of the new English Language Arts standards, said it’s impossible to teach K-5 reading “without coherently developing knowledge in science, and history, and the arts.”

 And that is why NAEP scores in early grades can improve slightly but collapse as students grow older. Because it is the deep foundation in rich knowledge and vocabulary depth that allows you to access more complex text.

Let’s not get confused here that [the CCSS] are adding back nice things [history, arts, science] that are an addendum to literacy.  We are adding the cornerstones of literacy, which are the foundations of knowledge, that make literacy happen.

There is no greater threat to literary study in this country than false imitations of  literature which do not deserve to be read.

Coleman told states not buy mediocre materials with a “Common Core” stamp.  Wait for the good stuff to be available, he said.

Why rich kids do better in school than poor kids

Why do rich kids do better in school than poor kids? Daniel Willingham provides two answers in an American Educator article.

First, wealthier parents can invest more in their children. They can afford “enrichment experiences in the summer, more books in the home, a tutor if one is needed, better access to health care, and so on.”

Wealthier parents are also likely to be higher in human capital–that is, they know more stuff. Wealthier parents speak more often to their children, and with a richer vocabulary, with more complex syntax, and in a way that elicits ideas from the child. Wealthier parents are also more likely to read to their children and to buy toys that teach letters and the names of shapes and colors.

Children who grow up in poverty are prey to “stress caused by crowding, by crime-ridden neighborhoods, by food uncertainty, and other factors.”  Warm, supportive parents can counteract this, but stress may affect parents’ ability to raise their children well, Willingham writes. “Stress also leads directly to brain changes in children. Both of these factors lead to emotional and cognitive disadvantage for kids.”

What can teachers do? Teach academic knowledge and skills that kids won’t get at home, but also teach “how to interact with peers and adults, how to interact with large institutions like a school or a government agency, how to interact with authority figures, how to schedule one’s time, strategies to regulate one’s emotions and so on,” Willingham writes.

A “calm atmosphere” is important for kids who come from noisy, crowded and thratening neighborhoods and homes, he adds. “Kids in more chaotic classrooms show higher levels of stress hormones.”

‘Educating the emotions’ via extracurriculars

Don’t cut extracurriculars or add fees that make it hard for students to participate, writes Mike Petrilli on Flypaper.

I can’t prove it, but I strongly suspect that one of the reasons American kids do so well in life (starting entrepreneurial companies, embracing a spirit of optimism, creating wealth, etc.) – even though they score poorly on international tests  –is because of what they pick up from sports, theater, band, student council, and the like.

Petrilli is impressed by David Brooks’ New York Times column on “educating the emotions.” Brooks writes:

When we raise our kids, we focus on the traits measured by grades and SAT scores. But when it comes to the most important things like character and how to build relationships, we often have nothing to say. Many of our public policies are proposed by experts who are comfortable only with correlations that can be measured, appropriated and quantified, and ignore everything else.

Researchers in “neuroscience, psychology, sociology, behavioral economics and so on” are advancing a “richer and deeper view,” writes Brooks. We are social animals who “thrive as we educate our emotions,” not just our reason.

Children’s emotions are best educated outside the classroom, Petrilli argues.

I’m all for extracurriculars, but I also think we parents care a lot about our children’s character and their ability to form relationships when “we raise our kids.”

Brooks has written about his ideas in the form of a novel, The Social Animal:  The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement. The book is a depressing tale of two boring people “who lead muted, more or less satisfactory lives in the successful pursuit of achievement as it is narrowly defined by their culture,” writes Will Wilkinson in Forbes. PZ Myers got through the “arid wasteland” by repeatedly chanting “Die, yuppie scum, die,” he writes in Salon. Brooks is an acute social observer, but is frequently wrong about the science, writes psychologist Christopher Chabris in the Wall Street Journal. OK, here’s a Christian Science Monitor review that calls Brooks an “able storyteller.”