September 8, 2011

The New Global Student

When I reflected a few days ago on whether there is or isn't an ideal time to take an expat assignment, I mentioned a book by Maya Frost, called The New Global Student, with the somewhat lengthy but descriptive subtitle "Skip the SAT, Save Thousands on Tuition, and Get a Truly International Education."  It's a great book, but especially so for expats, and I'll tell you why.

This amazing woman actually decided to move abroad, together with her husband and four teenage daughters, because she felt they were too much in a rut at their regular American high school, too much immersed in "what one does" with too little focus on a true education preparing them for life. Mind you, neither her nor her husband were just transferred abroad with a nice expat package. They had to start from scratch, having to learn a foreign language to boot. Her book is what came out of all of that, not just a very entertaining story with many "that is SO true" moments for me, but a very useful hands-on guide with great tips on foreign exchange strategies and alternatives to the typical college application process. She writes about how her daughters went on to have amazing careers (or rather lives) after various stints abroad and despite (or more accurately because of) very circuitous but fast-track routes through higher education, and she also includes numerous stories about other students with equally unique and global paths. You can read some of these stories on the New Global Student website.

Just to give you an idea, here is an excerpt from one of her chapters that immediately captivated me and should give you a good example of her writing style:
Okay, parents, listen up! It's time for a pop quiz. I'm going to write one question on the board, and I'd like you to carefully consider your answer. Ready?

What's the one thing preventing your student from catapulting forward? Please take a moment to think about it. (Cue Jeopardy music.)

Time's up. Let's see what some of you have come up with as an answer to this question. What's the one thing preventing your student from catapulting forward? Anyone?

Laziness!
Lack of Focus!
Uninspired teachers!
Too many tests!
Too much stress!
Too many classes!
Not enough time!
Not enough money!
No sense of purpose!
No idea what they are interested in!
Fear!


Ding! Ding! Ding! The one thing preventing your student from catapulting forward is fear. Not his or hers -- yours.

...This fear is bad enough, but another sneaky little element is also gumming things up. It's ego.

...Fear. Ego. Let's call it fego. it's quite an electrifying combo. Fego is the driving force behind the multibillion-dollar college-prep industry. It's what motivates us to get our kids to take the PSAT as an eighth grader or to sign up our students for SAT-prep courses as freshmen. Fego makes our stomach churn when we hear about the neighbor kid getting into Princeton. It breathes down our neck when we're looking at summer camp or college websites.

I could definitely see myself in that description.

In fact, I was sold when I read the book's very first sentence, a quote by Mark Twain: "I have never let my schooling interfere with my education." I could write an entire essay just about that morsel of wisdom.

The New Global Student's message is that we should strive to raise our kids to "surge ahead with flaming enthusiasm and red-hot qualifications for life (and work) in the global economy."  That a typical high school education in the U.S.and the inevitable college prep rat race that goes with it is not only insufficient but also not really necessary. That we as parents can avoid the stress of the "traditional hypercompetitive path to that golden university diploma" as well as save a lot of money in the process. That what we need today is "bold school," not "old school."

What Miss Frost does so well in her book is giving lots of hands-on and detailed advice for the multitude of ways to achieve that, in a very entertaining and inspiring way. 
   
Of course I might be biased by this book and the assumption that moving abroad has huge benefits for your kids, because we are one of those families that fits into the mold of her stories. And let's be honest, all of us like to think they did the right thing, so it's very comforting to have somebody else tell you so. Miss Frost can sometimes sound a bit condescending towards the American education system and those who choose to subject themselves to it, which might turn some readers off. It's also in many ways still a very American book which probably doesn't resonate so much for parents in, say, Europe. But I found her story and, even more so, her witty writing, both honest, entertaining, and thought-provoking. It goes much beyond schooling to the core of parenting and what it is we raise our kids for.

Order The New Global Student here on Amazon:

3 comments :

2summers.net said...

I don't have children, but this sounds like a book I want to read!

Anonymous said...

Going through the umming and aahing of whether or not to move to Jo'burg. Schooling for my 11 year old is a major factor. My kid has just visited 6 schools and sat 4 assessments - done pretty well BUT I'm still thinking...are we doing the right thing? Are we messing with my childs education as it's a different system/curriculum? What happens when we have to move back? etc. etc. AArgh!

Sine said...

I well remember the umming and aahing! But if I can give you one piece of advice: Don't let schooling and "staying within the same system" deter you from moving. That is the point of this book and several posts I've written on the topic. What your child will GAIN from going to a completely different school in a completely different system by having to adjust, being flexible, appreciating diversity, being confronted with a different learning style, will far outweigh what he/she LOSES by perhaps missing a few elements of the curriculum back home. Academics is NOT the major aspect of school, trust me. It is the "everything else" and that is where there is so much to learn when you move abroad. Where exactly they are in math when they return is NOT that important. They will either catch up, or - what we've already discussed in our family - repeat the year if necessary, even that is not the end of the world. 11 is such a young age. I have an 11-year old daughter and it is particularly she who has grown so much over the past year, being involved in many more activities she'd have time for at home because school days, let's face it, are terribly long in the US and the weather here is just perfect for spending time outdoors. And she's totally embraced a more merit-oriented system with commendations, principal awards, house points, prefects... I met a new mother at our school last week why'd just arrived from Canada, and we were sitting next to each other at a "Founder's Day" ceremony at our school with banners, speakers, acrobatic plane performances, choir singing, orchestra playing, you name it. She was in awe and SO glad she chose that school, saying she could never have imagined such a celebration and performance at their old school. So if you do decide to move here, I hope you consider a local school for the added experience.

You might also want to read this post of mine: http://joburgexpat.blogspot.com/2011/04/expat-joys-variety-and-life-skills.html#more and http://joburgexpat.blogspot.com/2010/06/south-african-schools.html.

Good luck!