education | January 23, 2013

Education: The Economist Raves About How Children Succeed By Paul Tough

Why is it that some children do so well in school while others do not? In education speaker Paul Tough's book, How Children Succeed, he provides groundbreaking research to answer that very question. And, as The Economist notes, the book is "provocative, ambitious, and elegantly written." The article mentions that previous efforts to close the achievement gap between poor and privileged students have achieved minimal success. In Tough's book, he presents a new way of looking at education to help bridge that divide. He argues that earning a post-secondary education has less to do with natural-born intelligence than it does with common personality traits.

Character traits like grit and perseverance tend to be more important indicators of success than innate intelligence alone. And Tough provides a plethora of multi-disciplinary research findings in his book to prove it. However, many schools today focus solely on improving students' test scores. Teaching them how to develop grit, dedication, and a resistance to adversity is outside of many teachers' comfort zone. However, Tough says that despite the fact that it's difficult to develop a character-based curriculum—it is possible, and necessary.

The Economist cites Tough's "fascinating chapter" on progressive teaching methods as an example of how to move education forward. Tough documents the work of a young chess instructor in Brooklyn who uses chess matches as a method for teaching children how to recover from failure. A program in Chicago is also teaching students the important link between hard work and success. These progressive programs teach students that determination and hard-work are just as important as their intelligence. Tough's book, and his keynotes, challenge us to rethink our traditional model of education, and focus on the skills children really need to succeed.

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