Damn Yankees

The New York Yankees, the best Major League Baseball team money can buy, just won the American League East Pennant for the ninth straight year.

A Rave for Montessori

Last month my son started attending preschool at a Montessori School in Seoul.  He absolutely loves it.  Although he initially had a bit of difficulty interacting with some children, because he likes to play a bit rough (he loves to "rough house"), he settled down and now is playing well with the other children.  His two teachers use the Montessori Method developed by Maria Montessori in the early 1900’s to help him learn, a method to which he has adapted well.  Originally developed to assist special needs children in Rome, the Montessori Method empowers children to learn at their own pace, teaching them personal responsibility, sensitivity to others, and progressively challenging curricula.  Teachers act more as guides than instructors, helping children on a more of an ad hoc basis than does traditional education.  While Montessori schoolchildren range in age from preschool to high school, the program is especially effective with younger children like my son.  My son was already well on his way to knowing his numbers and alphabet, and he can spell some basic words, including his name.  However, since he began attending a Montessori school, he has already learned to spell some complicated English words, including the long form of his first name.  The teachers have also channeled and honed his artistic skills, helping him learn how to paint and draw with improved technique.  He’s well on his way to making beautiful art.
I think that Montessori schools are an excellent educational option for preschool-aged children.  I also believe it’s a good program for older children, although I don’t have firsthand experience with Montessori’s youth programs.  Montessori schools can be expensive, which is a primary reason why most children do not attend these schools.  However, if you have the money and the opportunity to enroll your child in a Montessori school, I highly recommend investigating this option.  We plan to continue our son’s Montessori education when we’re back in the United States.  Unfortunately, our next destination, Paraguay, does not have an English-language Montessori School.  We’ll make do with what we can find in Asuncion.

Korea’s lagging productivity

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, a United Nations organization comprised of the world’s 30 largest economies, South Korea’s average hourly productivity between 2000 and 2004 was $10.40 per hour, equating to $10.40 earned in economic output produced each hour by a Korean worker.  In contrast, the average productivity of a U.S. worker between 2000 and 2004 was $40.00 per hour, nearly four times more than that of the average Korean worker.  U.S. productivity on a per hour, per worker basis exceeded that of any other OECD nation, including runner-up Japan, whose workers each produced on average $39.90 in economic output per hour.  The U.S. was more productivity during this period by this measure and than that of any other economy, including all European countries.  My friend married to an Austrian who insist that Austrians are more efficient than Americans can put that myth away.
If you’re a working American, it’s OK to smile knowing that you’re one of the most productive people on the planet, even more efficient than the vaunted Japanese salaryman.  If you’re an American expatriate working long term in Korea, you may also nod your head upon reading this statistic, because the OECD confirmed what has been gnawing at you for quite some time–the feeling that on a per-hour basis you are more productive than your Korean counterparts.  Still, the OECD’s statistic does not quite tell the whole story.  For one, Koreans work about 25% more hours annually than Americans do.  This boosts their overall annual productivity by 25%.  In addition, the OECD statistic measures the period 2000-04.  Koreans are no doubt more productive in 2006 than they were in 2000, the beginning of the period measured by the OECD.  In addition, Korean productivity gains very likely exceeded American productivity gains during the same period.  Korean workers are also more likely to be involved in manufacturing than their American counterparts, who are more likely to be engaged in services.  While productivity gains occur in both sectors, productivity advances in service sectors frequently outpace manufacturing gains.
Yet, any way you look at this statistic and try to explain it away, one fact is indisputable–Americans can still get almost four times as much done in an hour as Koreans do!