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Education and effort 

Nicholas Kristof has an interesting glimpse of China’s elite education, and he believes he has seen the future. “The long-run competitive challenge we Americans face from China will have less to do with its skylines, army or industry than with its Super Kids, like Tony Xu.”

He writes about high school students who already qualify for graduate education in the US, and the arithmetical wizardry of kindergarten students. I think there’s a humbling divide in ambition and determination between what Kristof witnesses in China and I’ve seen, for example, in India, and the bulk of students in advanced, western economies. Let’s have more of that determination here, for sure. I’m less sure, however, how that translates into the future.

How much is gained by accelerating the achievements of the best students? What is the difference between taking GREs (the standardised US graduate examinations) at 18 or 22, in the long run? Are either predictors of future achievement in a discipline? I wouldn’t be as hasty as Kristof at leaping to conclusions.

Newspaper divide 

Rhetorica has started an interesting strand on the differences between US and UK newspapers. The assertion is that the overt political bias of British papers is part of their success in circulation, and encourages political participation.

Up to a point, Lord Copper. As some of the comments on Rhetorica have noted, Britain’s newspapers are for the most part national, not local. So while Britain has a quarter of the US population, the newspapers are selling into a much bigger market than their US equivalents. Further, British newspapers are in a uniquely competitive market. I think that demands that papers establish a distinct identity — in their politics and in many other attributes. If The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The Times and The Independent were all trying to be “objective” newspapers of record (like The New York Times or The Washington Post), there wouldn’t be room for four of them.

And I haven’t even begun to discuss the tabloid papers, which follow very different rules indeed.

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