While many Americans worry about China's rising military might and new stealth fighter, they would be better off worrying about "the rise of China’s education system and the passion for learning that underlies it," writes Nicholas Kristof at the New York Times. He cites how China and Confucian lands like South Korea, Hong Kong, and Singapore once again dominate a survey of 65 countries' students in math, science and reading, while the United States lags far behind—15th in reading, 23rd in science, and 31st in math.
Kristof also recognizes the problems with the Chinese educational system. "Colleges are third-rate and should be a national disgrace," he says. And despite their passion for eduction, the Chinese think their schools stifle creativity and should be more American. As for what Americans should do: "We’re not going to become Confucians, but we can elevate education on our list of priorities without relinquishing creativity and independent thought." Kristof compares the situation to the kick-in-the-pants the US space program got in 1957: "These latest test results should be our 21st-century Sputnik."
(Read more Nicholas Kristof stories.)