The Drive To Learn by Cornelius N. Grove // Book Review

Around this time last year I was teaching my first college course on campus. We’d been getting an influx of international students, but this was the first time I had so many East Asians in my class. They sat next to each other and behaved similarly in class — quiet but attentive. I found myself questioning the clear differences between them and my American students. Were they self-conscious about speaking English? Did I not interest them as a teacher? How come they never raised their hands to answer questions? It was because of questions like these that I jumped at the chance to review The Drive To Learn: What the East Asian Experience Tells Us about Raising Students Who Excel by Cornelius N. Grove.

Grove’s mission has been to explain to Americans the historical and cultural reasons for their children’s comparatively mediocre performance in schools. In The Aptitude Myth (2013), he revealed the deep historical origins of Americans’ belief that a child’s inborn ability, rather than his effort, determines his level of school performance. And now in The Drive to Learn, Dr. Grove is revealing the deep cultural reasons why our children’s learning in school is consistently below world-class standards. (Read more about the author at

The Drive To Learn includes 9 discovery steps that each begin with a question such as: “Why do American Students Learn Less Than East Asian Students?” or “What Can We Gain from Western Reports about Student Learning in East Asia?”. Grove discovers each answer by consulting anthropological research findings, with each answer raising a fresh question. The new question is then asked at the beginning of the next chapter, and so forth.

After examining the different ways East Asians approach learning, he explains how we can begin parenting with Guān (to be in charge of, to manage, to control) and the seven commitments we can make to our children.

This book was short, interesting, and very easy to read. Grove supports his answers with 100+ references. He also provides an annotated bibliography at, where he further highlights fifteen as highly recommended. The Drive To Learn helped answer the questions I had about my East Asian students and then some.

The Drive To Learn was published by Rowman & Littlefield. You can also pick up The Drive To Learn on Amazon.



This book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This post contains an affiliate link. You can read more about my official disclosure policy here.

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