Sunday, June 16, 2013

Education: What Leads to Success?

How to Succeed - Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character is a compelling book by Paul Tough. Its central thesis is that character is critical to success and that character can be taught. 

Among the ideas included in Tough's book:
  • Psychological traits, like persisting at boring and unrewarding tasks, delaying gratification, and following through on plans, are more critical to success in school and in life than cognitive (intellectual) skills.
  • While many believe a high school degree certifies intellectual attainment, a high school degree may be a much more significant certification of one's ability to think ahead, persist in unrewarding/unchallenging tasks, and adapt to one's environment.
  • Traits that are likely to predict life satisfaction and high achievement are:
  1. grit        See -
  2. self-control
  3. zest
  4. social intelligence
  5. gratitude
  6. optimism
  7. curiosity
    The author writes about Dominic Randolph - headmaster of Riverdale Country School (a highly-competitive and prestigious private school in the Bronx). Randolph is very skeptical about the current focus on high-stakes testing.
    "He did away with AP classes soon after he arrived at Riverdale; he encourages his teachers to limit the homework they assign; and he says that the standardized tests that Riverdale and other private schools require for admission to kindergarten and middle school are 'a patently unfair system because they evaluate students almost entirely by IQ. This push on tests is missing out on some serious parts of what it means to be a successful human.'" 
    Randolph believes the most critical missing piece is character. Interestingly, in 2010, the National Center for Education Research studied seven popular character education programs. "It found no significant impact at all from the programs - not on student behavior, not on academic achievement, not on school culture." One might conclude that while character traits can be taught and do lead to success, many schools may be missing the boat on just how to teach these traits.

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