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October 23, 2007


Paul Kimmel

I'd just like to respond to Tracy Gilliam's comments about intelligence, because I think this is the #1 issue facing American schools. Unfortunately, while it was visible in the documentary (if you were looking for it), it was not addressed head on.

Americans believe intelligence and talent are the key factors in a person's success, and this myth is precisely why American students are at a disadvantage when compared with their Chinese and Indian counterparts.

I worked with a woman from Shanghai for years, and she had a saying she would use, "The stupid bird needs to fly first." Her belief was, everyone else around her was smarter than she was, so she had to put forth more effort in order to keep up.

It's clear, from the documentary, that neither the Indian nor the Chinese students see their talent as the key to their success. If they succeed, it will be because they worked hard. They put in the hours in order to get what they want.

But America is a nation of quick fixes. People play the lottery because they want instant wealth. And they waste their time watching TV or slaving away at dead-end jobs instead of working to improve themselves.

Belief in intelligence/talent is a curse. Here's why: if you succeed at something, you believe you did it because you are smart, and don't reflect on the experience; if you fail at something, you believe you failed because you're not smart enough, and you give up trying.

In my opinion, this is the pivotal difference between American students and their international counterparts, and it needs to stop. We need to stop telling our kids that they are "smart" and start telling them that it's all a matter of "hard work." It would be the truth.

Tracy Gilliam

Dear Robert,

Thank you for the fascinating, prolific piece on American education. I agree that we must help our children find the most productive use of their two million high school minutes.

Having grown up in the 70's as an Olympic level gymnast, my network sometimes acknowledges that I know sports, how to compete, and which kinetic intelligences within the gene pool will excel and which will not. I guess it's no surprise when my two daughters arrived on the planet, inquiring minds wanted to know if we would be going for second generation championships. While my offspring showed more than due genetic diligence to complete the task, I knew we would need another direction to prepare for the 21st century.

During their toddler days, my daughters and I played school. Their minds intrigued me. Every new thought, every new sentence formation, every new creative process enthralled me, and I became enamored with their cognitive dances.

I thought about home schooling my children but ultimately decided they would need to interact with a variety of religions and races to be effective leaders. Off to school they went where teachers targeted them for the gifted programs. Even though they went to school each day from 9 to 3, I did not place the teachers in full charge of their training and considered the school day a supplement to my duty to make sure they were educated and introduced to a variety of activities that would stimulate neuron development. My goal was to introduce them to information two years ahead of the state's required levels.

Now in high school, they attend AP classes and thrive both academically and socially. Both are eligible for full academic scholarships. Their classmates who focused on sports goals are not so fortunate.

Recently, one Senior boy exclaimed to me that he had received an 18 on his ACT score. Excitingly he added, "That's all I need to get into college!" In my best southern drawl and most gracious smiling manner, I replied, "An 18 will get you into college, but will it get you out?" I was heart broken for this boy because I know he will struggle with his grades and his self esteem when he tries to keep up in a university program. Even more disconcerting, so many of the male students from our county high school use this language.

The problem is not with this boy's IQ. He certainly has the ability to master a college education. The problem is that somewhere along the way, he decided to waste his two million minutes on social ranking. To him, college is a time to party with your friends, hang out at the dorm, and enjoy the good life free and independent of any adult rules. This is not this boy's fault. Hollywood offers up a culture of college movies and MTV soirees which have sold American teenagers on stereotypical roles.

In this blog entry, you focus on parental responsibility, but I have to wonder if we change this generation's language towards education, if we make it hip to be smart, if we brand "INTELLIGENCE" as the dominate trait, would we be able to tap into the limitless power of our cognitive resources? What can we do to rethink the informational dialogue surrounding our students' conversations/social interactions to help them realize that academics must be their top priority?

Tracy Gilliam
Founder, Glam Council of America
5200 Summer Meadows Arlington, TN 38002
Voice: 901.867.7630
Cell: 901.335.0441
Email: Info@GlamCouncilofAmerica.org
"It's not what you wear, it's who you are!"

Bob Compton

I actually have tremendous hope and faith in the American people to rise to the very real challenge of India and China dominating us intellectually in the 21st century.

I think when you see the film you'll find it to be very balanced between the facts and the fear.

But as a parent of two teenage daughters, I can tell you we have completely re-prioritized their activities based on who I know they will be competing with during their careers.

Year round athletics have been de-emphasized and year round academics are now the focus. And my girls - having seen the film -- are excited to be "competing" with smart, motivated Indian and Chinese high schoolers. Americans, at our core, are competitors and fighters!!

Bob Compton
Executive Producer
Two Million Minutes


We are walking a fine line between generating concern with factual information about our very real educational crisis, and providing encouragement and HOPE for the future so that EVERYONE is equipped and inspired to take action.

(The comparisons and blame games have been around for a long time and gotten us nowhere.)

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