Endorsements, reviews, and discussions of A Mirror for Americans.
Review in the June 2021 issue of Choice, a publication of the American Library Association
In A Mirror for Americans, Grove, who has written extensively on pedagogy across cultures, accessibly discusses the reasons why students in East Asia have long outperformed Americans. Following the title, his goal is for this volume to serve as “a mirror for Americans” and enable readers to examine the values that drive educational principles and thinking in the US. The author questions whether the focus on individualism is a detriment to American schooling, making it less effective, and encourages readers to reconsider the beliefs that shape their own understandings of learning and teaching. Throughout the book, Grove works to cultivate awareness of East Asian schooling practices to inspire new ideas about shifting the focus of American schools away from the students to instead focus on the knowledge to be learned. He challenges readers to imagine the possibilities for improving the academic performance of American children by reflecting on these East Asian approaches to teaching. Overall, this clear, readable, and slim volume is excellent for anyone interested in global perspectives on education that examine how cultural values influence schooling practices.
Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers through faculty; professionals.
Endorsement by James W. Stigler, co-author of The Teaching Gap and The Learning Gap
In A Mirror for Americans, Cornelius Grove again shows his chops as scholar, carefully reading, digesting, and explaining, in a compelling way, what we know about teaching and learning in Asian cultures, and how what we know about other cultures can impact our understanding of our own education system. As one of the researchers whose work is included, I can say that Grove gets it right. I urge anyone with an interest in schools, teaching, and learning to read this book.
Endorsement by Natalie Wexler, author of The Knowledge Gap
In this clearly written and engaging book, Grove deftly navigates the voluminous research on differences between East Asian and American schools, extracting valuable insights into why students in the former consistently outperform those in the latter on international tests. While Grove realistically concedes that the East Asian model can’t simply be transplanted to the United States, he uses the research to highlight assumptions about learning that Americans need to re-examine if they want to provide all students with a meaningful education.
Endorsement by Jin Li, author of Cultural Foundations of Learning: East and West
Reviewing decades of research, Grove provides a clear reflection in A Mirror for Americans that compels us to honestly look at how education has been done in the U.S. He asks us to question whether American education can benefit from East Asian values, which apparently serve many children well. Readers may be surprised by how this book breaks many myths of American education and points to ways for us to reimagine a better education for all.
Review by the Midwest Book Review
Synopsis: What is the explanation for American students’ comparatively mediocre academic performance? “A Mirror for Americans: What the East Asian Experience Tells Us about Teaching Students Who Excel ” by Cornelius N. Grove finds part of it lies in how they are taught in primary schools.
Comparisons with East Asian teaching are supplied by 50 years of research findings. But Grove asks not that we copy East Asian teaching approaches, rather that we use them as a mirror to gain insights into typically American approaches and their underlying values, which are handicapping our children’s learning.
Critique: Exceptionally informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, “A Mirror for Americans: What the East Asian Experience Tells Us about Teaching Students Who Excel” is exceptionally well written, organized, and presented — making it an ideal curriculum textbook, as well as an unreservedly recommended addition to school district, college and university library Contemporary Teacher Education collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of education students, academia, classroom teachers, education administrators, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that “A Mirror for Americans” is readily available in a paperback edition (9781475844610, $30.00) and in a digital book format (eTextbook, $27.09).
Overview by the British website Boove.co.uk
A Mirror for Americans Offers Fresh Approach to School Reform
Dr. Cornelius Grove has a distinctive perspective on school reform: “Values account for the choices people make,” he says. “In our typical debates about reform, everyone’s point of view is driven, largely or entirely, by America’s foundational value, individualism. That underlying similarity ensures that transformational change will never occur.”
In A Mirror for Americans: What the East Asian Experience Tells Us about Teaching Students Who Excel, Grove offers insights into Americans’ typical ways of teaching and their underlying values by using East Asian primary education as a mirror “to see ourselves as others see us.”
East Asian students have always gained higher scores on the international comparative tests than American students. Grove explains this by distilling 50 years of anthropological research into East Asian primary schools. He then offers insights into East Asian teaching approaches and, more significantly, into the societal values shaping how East Asians teach young pupils.
But A Mirror for Americans, about teaching, provides only half of the explanation. The other half is about East Asian families and parenting, revealed by Grove in his 2017 book, The Drive to Learn: What the East Asian Experience Tells Us about Raising Students Who Excel.
“The purpose of my books,” explains Grove, “is to convey to the general reader the research findings from East Asia, where societal values unlike ours shape child-rearing and primary school teaching. There’s an ‘Aha!’ moment: If only we could think differently about children and their classroom learning, we could raise the level of our own youngsters’ performance.”
A Mirror for Americans concerns itself with preschool through grade 5, contrasting East Asian and American classroom cultures. Among the research-generated facts revealed are these:
- In preschool and grade 1, East Asian children are taught, and they practice, individual and group behaviors that promote their own learning and their teacher’s efficient lesson delivery.
- Teachers design lessons based on the internal logic of the content they are teaching, not on factors such as a need to motivate, to have fun learning, or to draw out pupil creativity. But they do present content so that all their pupils – slower and more advanced – will benefit.
- Whether a lesson is student-centered or teacher-centered doesn’t concern East Asians. East Asian lessons are knowledge-centered. This is Grove’s key explanation for why East Asian students have always outperformed their American peers on those international tests.
Explains Grove, “East Asian youngsters are molded into superior pupils by attitudes toward learning brought from home plus assumptions about teaching encountered at school. These facts serve as a mirror for Americans, enabling us to re-evaluate our opinions about how kids learn best – and about the values that drive our opinions – from an invigorating perspective.”