The strength of both the global economy and the global democracy will depend on the quality of the world’s future citizens. But, as the Canadian author John Ralston Saul once said, a well-educated populace is not only the “most valuable” thing a society can produce; it is also the “most difficult.” At the heart of this difficulty lies the relationship between a nation’s teachers and its young people. Recent research finds that teachers, more than any other factor under a school system's control, determine whether students learn and progress — or, as happens to so many, flounder. I am writing a book about how America’s teaching force has so far failed to stop many students from floundering — and how the teaching force might be transformed so that more students succeed. The book, to be published by Norton in 2012, will be accompanied by magazine stories on the same subject. Much of my reporting will take place in the United States, but one critical piece of my research will be to examine the systems for preparing and supporting teaching work in other countries. Japan will be a chief example. Even the lowest-scoring Japanese schools outperform the highest-scoring schools in America. The reason cited by the cultural anthropologists and education researchers who study Japanese schooling: Japan outperforms the U.S. because of the way the country prepares, supports, and conceptualizes the work of teaching. My reporting will be disseminated in at least one chapter of my book and at least one magazine story.