Educational One-Upmanship and Magical Thinking

Despite all the talk about how education is the way for people to school themselves out of poverty and other social problems, people still know and act as if education is essentially a game of dog eat dog. Viewed this way, as a parent, it is natural that you want to be sure your children are the diners and not the dinner in this situation, but some very competitive adults take this to an extreme.

I learned from Derren Brown, a magician I follow (magic and illusion is a passion of mine), about how Chinese parents were defrauded by an education company's promises to turn their children into academic superstars. This is from an article in the Guardian, "Chinese parents defrauded by 'perfect' education:"

For ambitious Chinese parents, the opportunity was too good to miss – even with its 100,000 yuan (£9,950) price tag. Their children would learn to read books in 20 seconds and identify poker cards by touch. The most talented would instantly see answers in their heads when presented with test papers.
Around 30 pupils aged from seven to 17 were enrolled for the Shanghai summer course. But 10 days later their "special abilities" had not materialised. "I found that my child learned nothing except how to cheat," one parent complained.
The tipoff for the magician that this was a major scam is the poker card trick. This trick is a classic of card magic and has numerous variations, but for parents seeking an edge, and trusting in the authority of educators, it must have appeared as a powerful bonus in addition to the other skills this outfit promised.
Here, though, the fraud of promising special abilities upon completion of the educational program is plain and obvious. In our society we, too, suffer from magical thinking about education. We believe that just progressing through the system creates knowledge, despite millions of graduates who are not  able to speak a foreign language, do more than basic math, or understand science after years of passing classes in those subjects.