If you have two textbooks in front of you, one from the United States and one from Russia, you’ll immediately notice a big difference: the American textbook is full of pictures and colorful diagrams with short captions. The Russian textbook is just blocks of text. From a young age, the American educational system indoctrinates students to be entertained while learning, which has the effect of shortening their attention spans and limiting the amount of material they can learn.

Another big difference that was recently highlighted in the NPR article Struggle For Smarts is that hard effort is looked upon as weakness in America…

In Eastern cultures, Stigler says, it’s just assumed that struggle is a predictable part of the learning process. Everyone is expected to struggle in the process of learning, and so struggling becomes a chance to show that you, the student, have what it takes emotionally to resolve the problem by persisting through that struggle.



“We did a study many years ago with first-grade students,” he tells me. “We decided to go out and give the students an impossible math problem to work on, and then we would measure how long they worked on it before they gave up.”

The American students “worked on it less than 30 seconds on average and then they basically looked at us and said, ‘We haven’t had this,’ ” he says.

But the Japanese students worked for the entire hour on the impossible problem. “And finally we had to stop the session because the hour was up.


in the Japanese classrooms that he’s studied, teachers consciously design tasks that are slightly beyond the capabilities of the students they teach, so the students can actually experience struggling with something just outside their reach. Then, once the task is mastered, the teachers actively point out that the student was able to accomplish it through hard work and struggle.

If it’s easy, then you’re not learning the material. You can apply this to not just learning but life.

Read More: The Fastest Way To Learn A Language

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