Paul Tough’s book, “How Children Succeed”, asks why, among the early graduates of a KIPP middle school in New York who scored high on tests and got into college, so many had trouble finishing college.
Paul Tough, a journalist and former editor at the New York Times Magazine, aims to answer these thorny questions in “How Children Succeed”, an ambitious and elegantly written new book, now out in Britain. The problem, he writes, is that academic success is believed to be a product of cognitive skills—the kind of intelligence that gets measured in IQ tests. This view has spawned a vibrant market for brain-building baby toys, and an education-reform movement that sweats over test scores. But new research from a spate of economists, psychologists, neuroscientists and educators has found that the skills that see a student through college and beyond have less to do with smarts than with more ordinary personality traits, like an ability to stay focused and control impulses. The KIPP students who graduated from college were not the academic stars but the workhorses, the ones who plugged away at problems and resolved to do better.
“Stay focused”, The Economist, January 19, 2013. The online version of the article also includes an audio interview with Paul Tough—it’s about 10 minutes long, but it’s a great introduction to his book.
Based on the research about character and success, KIPP has developed a character education program that focuses on these strengths and behaviors: Zest, Self-Control, Gratitude, Curiosity, Optimism, Grit, and Social Intelligence. The program is designed for young people, but I believe these strengths and behaviors are important for success at any age.