In his review of Amanda Ripley’s book on the education of children in other countries [“Are other countries’ kids really brighter?,” Outlook, Sept. 22], Jay Mathews made the following point: “The most consistent U.S. failing Ripley discovers is our way of selecting and training teachers. If we erected barriers to education careers as high as those for lawyering, we would be better off.”

I’m sure that higher standards for teachers would help, but a focus upon the shortcomings of our teachers misses a more basic point — the shortcomings of our culture. It’s time that American parents look more at themselves and less at their children’s teachers to find solutions to lagging learning scores. When our children see that we value their scholastic achievements as much as (or more than) we value their weekend victories on the football field, we will have taken a step in the right direction.

It’s not easy for educators and elected officials to point fingers at their constituencies and make that point, but that is exactly what is needed.

Jim Kirkman, Annandale