The Years That Matter Most
How College Makes or Breaks Us
Who gets to graduate, and what are the deciding factors? In his forthcoming new book, The Years That Matter Most, New York Times bestselling author Paul Tough puts forth a mind-changing inquiry into higher education. Does college provide real opportunity for young people who want to improve themselves and their prospects? Or is it simply a rigged game, reinforcing problems of classism, racism, and privilege that continue to marginalize society? In the talks drawn from his paradigm-shifting research, Tough challenges the status quo, revealing how higher education fits into that.
“Every parent should read this book—and every policymaker, too.”— Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit
In his book How Children Succeed—which spent over a year on The New York Times bestseller list—education speaker Paul Tough challenged the belief that intelligence, endlessly measured by test scores, is the sole predictor of how well a child will do in school and in life. In his follow-up, Helping Children Succeed: What Works and Why, Tough offers a practical guidebook for educators, parents, and community groups dedicated to improving the lives of children growing up in adversity, containing all-new strategies based in the emerging science of success. In the talks drawn from his research, Tough ushers in a tidal change in thinking with his argument that curiosity, conscientiousness, optimism, self-control, and grit are better indicators of success than IQ. With the soon-to-be-released The Years That Matter Most, Tough introduces the innovative new ideas—proposed by psychologists, sociologists, and economists—on how to address the problem of discrepant graduation rates, including a nationwide effort to better identify and recruit high-achieving low-income students to highly selective colleges.
Tough identifies a phenomenon in our culture that he calls the “adversity gap”: Some kids, especially those growing up in poverty, simply have too much adversity in their lives, and others, especially those growing up in affluence, actually experience too little. Tough says that children develop character strengths when they persevere through adversity. And it’s our job – the adults in their homes and their schools and their communities – to give them the support and guidance they need to manage and grow from those setbacks and disappointments.
Tough is also the author of Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America, which chronicled the inspiring story of the Harlem Children’s Zone. He is a contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine, where he has written cover articles about first-generation college students, character education, and OxyContin addiction in Appalachia, among other topics. He has also contributed stories to This American Life, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Esquire, and GQ.
“Paul Tough facilitated our educators retreat for dozens of school superintendents, university deans, directors of education organizations and staff members from the Ohio Department of Education. He not only used a very cohesive and thoughtful PowerPoint presentation format but also posed excellent inquiry questions for table discussion. Mr. Tough referred to examples from his book, challenged the audience to think about non-cognitive traits, and cited background research at appropriate times. One participant stated, ‘The conversation was outstanding. It renewed my faith that the right combination of adult support, nurturing, teaching and coaching can overcome the greatest of obstacles.’ The educators, who attended this retreat, gave it some of the highest ratings.”Martha Holden Jennings Foundation
“Thank you for participating in the PBS and CPB sponsored breakfast ‘Our Kids, Our Communities, Our Future’ at the PBS Annual Meeting in San Francisco. Your presentation about How Children Succeed was funny, informative and helped to demonstrate the importance of being a champion and mentor to underserved children, and the power of public media to foster engagement. I continue to hear from station leadership and project managers who were inspired by your address and are excited to think differently about ways to engage their community. Thank you again for illuminating our thoughts with your research and anecdotes.”Corporation for Public Broadcasting