How Children Succeed – Grit, Curiosity, and the hidden power of character
In ‘How Children Succeed – Grit, Curiosity and the hidden power of character’ Paul Tough identifies the character strengths that make a difference in education and tells the stories of the leaders and schools that are making a difference. Tough highlights revolutionary programs that build character strengths such as grit, perseverance and curiosity in schools that help overcome shortfalls caused by generational poverty.
Tough investigates the schools and institutions in America, which are harnessing the power of emerging research in psychology and neuroscience, bringing together the positive psychology work of Martin Seligman and the concept of the growth mindset from Carol Dweck (amongst others). These include the KIPP charter schools, whose character program has helped underprivileged students thrive in middle school, high school and college programs.
This book is an outstanding read for educational leaders who teach in low socio economic areas. I defy any such school leader to read this book and not come out of it with dog-eared pages, highlighted ideas and a Google search of ‘KIPP character’. The book is written in the investigative journalism form, a form which not only shines a light on amazing deeds and actions usually hidden from the public, but it adds meaning to help us better understand the world.
This book is important also, because the traits of grit, perseverance etc. are not only the skills needed by students to gain success, they are also the traits our best teachers have in spades. They are the traits that are required from all educators to provide the way ahead for students in disadvantaged areas.
An interesting footnote to this book is a conclusion drawn by Tough in his final chapter. He makes the interesting observation that in terms of public policy and public discourse, the Education debate and the poverty debate have in essence merged. As a society we no longer debate poverty, rather we debate the achievement gap between rich and poor; about how “children who grow up in poor families… are doing very badly in school”. While the focus of this book is the USA, the lessons for Australia are clear, where PISA assessments show the gap between our highest and lowest performing students and schools count among the biggest in the OECD. Tough’s book shows that aside from policy interventions, there are programs and solutions to redress inequalities that exist, and that character education could be a game changer.
Paul Tough’s ‘How Children Succeed’ is an amazing piece of journalism, which clearly highlights the importance of character education in our schools.