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What the world is reading

Tracy Clark-Flory writes that Americans could take lessons from Netherlands on how to deal with the raging hormones of teenagers. A new study shows that while parents of teenagers in Netherlands allow romantic sleepovers, the country has one of the lowest youth pregnancy rates in the world. "The report, 'Sex, Love, and Autonomy in the Teenage Sleepover' by sociologist Amy Schalet, spills plenty of ink describing the forbidding and fearful American view of premarital teen sex that is all too familiar to most of us stateside. " Schalet compares the attitude of American and Dutch parents on the complicated issue of teen sex. While the Dutch downplay the dangerous and difficult aspects of teen sex and, in fact, believe that the young adults are physically and emotionally ready for sex, American parents have forever been sceptical of teenagers' capacity to fall in love. Even though they too allow sleepover they do so under duress so that they don't harm their relationship with their teen. Expanding more on Dutch parents Clark-Flory writes: "More generally, the country's moral rules cast sexuality as a part of life that should be governed by self-determination, mutual respect, frank conversation, and the prevention of unintended consequence. It's no coincidence that the country has also secured easy access to contraceptives and other sexual healthcare. " The study also reveals that even though the Dutch are open to teen sex, the rates of STDs and births amongst teenagers are very low. In contrast, the same figures for American teens in 2007 were eight times higher.

Arecent report by Jonathan Zimmerman highlights how American students lag behind the Asians in their academic scores. "On a standardized test administered to 15-year-olds in over 60 countries, the US came in 17th in reading, 23rd in science, and 31st in math. Meanwhile, Asian countries clustered near the top. Students in Shanghai, China, nearly ran the table, scoring first in the world in all three tested subjects. Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong outperformed America, as well. " Experts blame the easy and soft attitude of teachers and parents towards students in American schools. In stark contrast, Asian schools grill the students with stricter academic requirements and greater volume of homework. "Asian students do work harder. Asians believe that hard work is the prime determinant of their success. By contrast, Americans typically ascribe academic performance to innate ability. And that's a fool's game. For the more we believe in 'smarts', the less likely we are to persist in a task. " As Zimmerman concludes the lesson learnt is that if you want kids to succeed don't talk about their intelligence. "Americans like to say that their country is a land of opportunity;that anyone can make it, if they just try hard enough. But our educational system tells another story altogether. By emphasizing who is smart - and who is not - we teach our kids that their inborn capabilities are more important than their sweat and toil. "

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