“If you want the American dream, go to Finland.”

These blunt words from a British politician, quoted by Amanda Ripley in “The Smartest Kids in the World.”

Ripley made the canny choice to enlist “field agents” who could penetrate other countries’ schools far more fully than she: three American students, each studying abroad for a year.

The question is whether the startling perspective provided by this book can also generate the will to make changes.

Annie Murphy Paul, NYT Review of Books

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