Today in Global Marketing my professor posed an interesting question to the class. She talked about how Americans are portrayed as dumb and on TV shows they go around asking typical Americans simple questions like "Who was President during the Civil War?" to hear something idiotic like "Thomas Edison". So the question was "How can Americans know so little and do so well?" (in terms of Education)
This was toward the end of class so she didn't discuss her take on it but I have a few speculations or theories of my own. My comparative source, however, is my mother so I can't say my theories apply in all situations. My mother grew up in Vietnam and in their education system, they learn different languages, master mathematics, and are cultured by memorizing scripture. A lot of their "homework" consisted of rewriting passages or memorizing pages of the book. Also, teachers are highly respected almost like a second parent. Since students are spending most of their time in school, the teachers are looked to to cultivate children. In this kind of setting, whatever the teacher says is the absolute truth and to question what is being taught would be outright disrespectful and resulted in corporal punishment. Failure is looked down upon and ridiculed in the society that my parents grew up in.
However, I think that in the American way of teaching, students are encouraged to ask questions and curiosity is rewarded. It is taught that the teacher/professor's teaching is not the absolute truth, but only a different version based on their own perception. We are taught to question the writers of our textbooks also as they are written with the author's bias. We are encouraged to question what we learn, to analyze it, to think about it and make our own opinions. We are asked not to memorize passages, but what the passages mean and what can we draw from them. Failure is something, I feel, is more accepted in the American culture. With each failure, we are always encouraged to try again. With that, I think that curiosity and failure breeds learning which in turn breed success. Maybe we don't learn all of the trivial stuff and we don't have the Bill of Rights completely memorized, but we are taught to think about the Bill of Rights, to question it and make our own conclusions.
I think that it's an important piece of success in American enterprise. Companies are always trying new things, failing and learning from it, asking questions, "how can we make our process better?" and not taking what we learn from books as the recipe to success but a guide toward that direction.