Friday, December 21, 2012

One of the Most Incredible Books I've Ever Read

Paul Tough concluded his brilliant book: How Children Succeed talking about the importance of helping the 10% of American children whose household income (for a family of four) is below $11,000/year.  He noted how these children often have multiple problems in school related to various traumas they experience in their lives.

p.193 – “No one has round a reliable way to help deeply disadvantaged children, in fact.  Instead, what we have created is a disjointed, ad hoc system of governmental agencies and programs which follow them haphazardly through their childhood and adolescence.” …..  

“But we could design an entirely different system for children who are dealing with deep and pervasive adversity at home.  It might start at a comprehensive childhood wellness center, like the one that Nadine Burke Harris is working to construct in Bayview-Hunters Point, with trauma focused care and social-service support woven into every medical visit.  It might continue with parenting interventions that increase the chance of secure attachment, like Attachment and Biobehavioral Catch-up, or ABC, the program developed at the (p.194) University of Delaware.  In prekindergarten, it might involve a program like Tools of the Mind that promotes executive-function skills and self-regulation in young children.  We’d want to make sure the students were in good schools, of course, not ones that track them into remedial classes but ones that challenge them to do high-level work.  And whatever academic help they were getting in the classroom would need to be supplemented by social and psychological and character-building interventions outside the classroom, like the ones Elizabeth Dozier has brought to Fenger or the ones that a group called Turnaround for Children provides in several low-income schools in New York City and Washington, D.C.  In high school, these students would benefit from some combination of what both One-Goal and KIPP Through College provide – a program that directs them toward higher education and tries to prepare them for college not only academically but also emotionally and psychologically.

A coordinated system like that, targeted at the 10 to 15 percent students at the highest risk of failure, would be expensive, there’s no doubt.  But it would almost certainly be cheaper than the ad hoc system we have in place now.  It would save not only lives but money, and not just in the long run, but right away.”

(Note: the individuals and programs noted above were all explained in detail earlier in the book.)

Tough talks about the critical importance of children bonding with at least one parent by age three.   He believes that measures of aptitude such as IQ testing fail to address the highly important issues of children learning to deal with failures in life, build curiosity, have “grit” and what he labels “character” so that they will believe in themselves and strive to learn and grow.  He talks of the importance of character skills such as self-control, optimism, perseverance and conscientiousness. While he focuses upon the needs for helping children throughout their upbringing, he also talks of successful efforts that can help some teenagers turn important parts of their lives around, despite earlier major life difficulties.

This book cites numerous research studies in various areas particularly focusing upon neuroscience.    

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Difference Between Motivation and Volition

From: "How Children Succeed" - by Paul Tough - an Incredible Book!

(reference is to a chess player seeking to improve his chess ranking)  p.130 - "Rowson's comments seemed to speak to Prilleltensky's plight - and they also echoed Angela Duckworth's' theory on the crucial difference between motivation and volition.  'When it comes to ambition,' Rowson wrote, 'it is crucial to distinguish between '''wanting''' something and '''choosing''' it.'  Decide that you want to become world champion, (p.131) Rowson explained, and you will inevitably fail to put in the necessary hard work.   You will not only not become world champion but also have the unpleasant experience of falling short of a desired goal, with all the attendant disappointment and regret.  If, however, you choose to become world champion (as Kasparov did at a young age), then you will 'reveal your choice through your behavior and your determination.  Every action says, '''this is who I am. ''' "

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Journey of an Israeli in Palestine

(p.121) "We were at a dialogue at Majeed's house.  Majeed was explaining a point when he said, "The Palestinians had barely 10,000 fighters, but the Haganah and the other Jewish militias combined were triple that number if not more.  So when the Jews attacked, the Palestinians never had a chance."  That was the most outrageous version of history I had ever heard: that the fighting forces of the Jewish militias in1948 were superior to the Arabs' and that the Jews attacked.

My father and all of his friends had fought in that war.  I'd heard first-hand stories about the sieges, the fierce attacks, and the touch-and-go battles where our forces were outnumbered and won only because they had the wits and the moral high ground.....

I was fully convinced that with my background I knew more than anyone else about this aspect of the conflict and that what Majeed was saying made no sense.  In a way it dishonored the story of the creation of the Jewish state, a story in which the few defeating the many is a crucial element.  If what he said was true, then it de-glorified much of the story.

That could easily have been my breaking point.  I could not explain why Majeed would be perpetuating this insane notion that Israel was not a "David" defending itself against the Arab "Goliath," but I wasn't ready to dismiss him as a liar.

I could not dismiss him because by now trust had been built between us.  This trust allowed me to let go of the safe comfort of "knowing"  so that I could explore the unknown territory of the "other".  This was very difficult, but I felt that even if what he said was not the truth that I knew, I would have to explore it.

I didn't say anything right away because I didn't want to start arguing.  Instead, when I got home that night, I called my brother Yoav, who taught political science at Tel Aviv University.

"Yes, what your friend said has merit.  If you want to know more, read a few books by Benny Morris, Ilan Pappe, and Avi Shlaim."  These three "New Israeli (p.122) Historians" had all recently rewritten the history of the establishment of Israel.  I did exactly as Yoav advised.  Over the following weeks and months I read all the books by these authors.  And the more I read, the more I wanted to know.  They had corroborated what Palestinians had been saying for decades.  In fact, the corroborated what most of the world had known for years: that Israel was created after Jewish militias destroyed Palestine and forcibly exiled its people.  This was a rude awakening for me."

From: "The General's Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine" by Miko Peled, Just World Books, 2012

p.102 - "Then, in the fall of 1997, an unthinkable disaster befell our family.  Two young Palestinians blew themselves up on Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem and killed my niece."

p.31 - "As an adult, my father made his mark on Israeli history.  First as a young officer, who distinguished himself in battle as a fearless, committed, and levelheaded leader of men during Israel's War of Independence.  Then as a career officer who dedicated himself to building a well-organized fighting force for the young state of Israel.  But probably most notably as one of the generals of the Six Day War of 1967, when the Israeli army captured the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights, and the Sinai Peninsula."

Thursday, November 15, 2012

To Accept Myself

To accept myself
Is not a simple – linear feeling

•    It includes:  taking risks and
Accepting and Learning when I fall or fail

•    It includes:  being aware of
and feeling sadness, hurt and
Even pain – at times
(– the loss of someone dear to me for example),

•    It includes being angry and using that anger in positive ways
( – such as reacting to injustices that others and I face)

It means loving and helping heal myself acknowledging 
that which is difficult


doing my best

Recognizing and Appreciating
the flowers, the bright-warm sunlight, the flowing waters


both the little boy
and the aging women
(and just outside me)

Learning not to blame
Living Today – as Today
Welcoming Tomorrow


Accepting Yesterday

As I move ahead in my life.

George:  11/11/2012 – as a new day begins

Sunday, September 30, 2012

On a lighter Note - Sports related Thoughts

"...eventually faced fourth-and-4 at the Huskies' 34 with 2 minutes left. With the defense spread out, Nunes tried to throw a fade route down the sideline to 6-foot-8 tight end Levine Toilolo. But the ball was poorly thrown, and Desmond Trufant was in position to intercept the pass at the 8 with 1:46 left"

When I heard the tv commentary on this play, I laughed!   Desmond Trufant was repeatedly complimented and the announcer stated that his play was "the play of the game" saving the upset win of The University of Washington Huskies over Stanford.

Let's look at the play from what I see as a more "objective" view.   Washington took over possession at their 8 yard line and was fortunate enough to get a first down, allowing it to "kill the clock" and win the game.    If Washington had not gotten the first down, it would have had to punt from somewhere proximate to its own 8 yard line and given Stanford an (admittedly uphill) opportunity of winning the game with a touchdown in the remaining seconds of the game.

If, instead of intercepting the pass, Trufant had "perceptively knocked the ball down" Washington would have taken possession at its own 34 yard line, rather than its 8 yard line, 24 yards further up field.   While the results could have been the same, there would have been 24 more yards necessary for Stanford to score, a significant difference.

I don't strongly "condemn" Trufant for his actions, as in the "heat of play" one can make a poor decision.   I do, however, find it wrong that the announcers Never mentioned what "should have happened".   I would note, also, that in playing for the interception and then intercepting the ball Trufant risked both the receiver then catching the pass (through Trufant failing to intercept the pass) as well as the possibility that he could have fumbled the pass after intercepting it, both of which would have been a disaster for Washington.    Pounding the ball out-of-bounds and to the ground with force would have been a much safer play for Trufant to have made.

Often times coaches of athletes Should tell their players what they should do in the event that they need to make a "good" decision.   It's unclear if that would have been possible here.

I remember in the 1980's watching a championship little league game which was tied in its last inning.  The based were loaded and there was one out.   The batter hit the ball directly on the ground to the pitcher.   He fielded it calmly and threw the ball to first base as the winning run scored from third to home base.   The coach of this team should have told all his players: "You've got to throw the ball to home to get the out" before this play happened, but said nothing.

I remember watching DePaul University lose the NCAA semi-final game in early 1979 to Indiana State University (with star Larry Bird).    Trailing and needing a basket to win the game, DePaul came out of a timeout with the ball and a play.   With about 10 seconds left DePaul's star, Mark Aguirre, took a totally off balance long shot which missed, losing the opportunity for the win.   I don't know what Aguirre had been told during their last timeout, however he should have been told to try to set up his shot, AND if it didn't work out, with about 8-10 seconds left, to call their final timeout.

Oft times late in football games, players are complimented for "making a great catch" of a pass.   This praise is valid, when the  pass gains significant yardage for a team trailing and trying to get that score to win the game.   It is totally ridiculous however to compliment such a play where the receiver makes a diving catch for a 3 yard gain taking up valuable time for minimal gain.

Just - my pet peeves in sports!   Smile!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Paul Tough - Very Significant - How Children Succeed

I heard Paul Tough speak last evening about his book: "How Children Succeed".

I highly recommend learning of his ideas!

He talks both of the issues faced by poor, inner-city children as well as upper-middle class children.

"The story we usually tell about childhood and success is the one about intelligence: success comes to those who score highest on tests, from preschool admissions to SATs.

But in How Children Succeed, Paul Tough argues that the qualities that matter most have more to do with character: skills like perseverance, curiosity, conscientiousness, optimism, and self-control.

How Children Succeed introduces us to a new generation of researchers and educators who, for the first time, are using the tools of science to peel back the mysteries of character. Through their stories—and the stories of the children they are trying to help—Tough traces the links between childhood stress and life success. He uncovers the surprising ways in which parents do—and do not—prepare their children for adulthood. And he provides us with new insights into how to help children growing up in poverty."

Paul Tough's Website

Some other links to useful things in learning about Paul Tough's ideas (some links may eventually go bad)

What if the Secret to Success is Failure?   (great NY Times article primarily focused on work at both a Kipp school in Harlem and an elite private school The Riverdale Day School)

What Does Obama Really Believe In?   (New York Times Magazine article on Roseland neighborhood in Chicago - inner city poverty)

Podcast on Book - This American Life  - Source (same) (heavy, but excellent!!!) 

Elizabeth Spiegel's Blog (The Chess Teacher at Brooklyn's P.S. 318- whose [inner city] middle school chess teams have been dominant at winning major chess tournaments)


Friday, August 24, 2012

Education - Different Stories

I grew up in West Lafayette, Indiana - living a few blocks from Purdue University. My high school was and is an "excellent" high school. Having a high percentage of Purdue University faculty members' children as well as the children of doctors, lawyers and successful business people the children of "normal" or "poor" families stand out.

Most recent demographic statistics:


show that the students are: 66.0% White, 20.6% Asian-American, 4.7% Hispanic, 4.3% Black and 4.2% Multi-Ethnic. 87.1% of the students bring their own lunches or pay full prices for school lunches while 10.5% get free lunches and 2.4% get reduced prices for lunches at school.

Chicago Public Schools in contrast show:

(See: )

44.1% Latino Students, 41.6% Black, 8.8% White, and 3.4% Asian/Pacific Islander as well as 87% low income students.

Of Chicago's approximately 92 public high schools: White Students, approximately 10,000 of 113,873 total secondary students are disproportionately in:

5 Selective Enrollment Schools:

Lane Tech = 1294 (29.8% of the students)
Whitney Young = 652 (29.4%)
Northside = 450 (41.9%)
Payton = 321 (37.2%)
Jones = 253 (28.3%)
= 2970

Taft High School (in a heavily White Area) has 1785 White students, which is 48.9% of its 3137 total student body. Additionally Lincoln Park High School - in a very, very upper-middle class area has about 628 White students (27.6% of its student body)

5383 White Students - over half of the total White high school students attend 7 schools. These schools schools have low income rates from 30.9% to 58.3% at Lane Tech (which has 46.7% Hispanic students).

The remaining approximately 85 high schools average approximately 5% White Students and their average low income rate must be almost 90%.

Of the other schools:

Corliss = 569 students = 90.2% low income, 97.5% Black
Curie = 3078 students = 91.3% low income, 82.7% Hispanic and 10.4% Black
Dunbar = 1331 students = 94.4% low income, 97.9% Black
Foreman = 1586 = 84.5% low income, 78.3% Hispanic, 16.3% Black
Hubbard = 1673 = 95.3% low income, 85.8% Hispanic, 6.5% Black
Juarez = 1818 = 95.2% low income, 93.8% Hispanic
Kelly = 2722 = 94.9% low income, 83.2% Hispanic, 11.4% Asian
King College Prep = 949 = 73.3% low income, 91.9% Black
Youth Connection Charter = 1978 = 87.4% low income, 72.9% Black, 24.4% Hispanic

are a sampling, mostly of some of the larger schools.

In Chicago most of the "outstanding" students either go to private schools or "escape" neighborhood schools where they come from poor families for the few top Chicago public schools.

To expect that both students and teachers will "succeed" in schools where 90% of the children are low income and nearly all the students are not only poor, but also minority students seems extremely naive.

Perhaps - if such students had a new swimming pool to replace the old one, and many of the other facilities that are the norm at West Lafayette High School some of the students might do a little better. More problematic are how one can teach and learn where most of the students enter high school far, far, far, far behind in reading and in basic academic knowledge.

I saw a very nice video put out by my alma mater about its academic outlook. While I agree with what it said, its words would be irrelevant to so many in our country who teach and learn in schools facing a different world of poverty, generally under-funded schools, and low expectations for all.

The "successes" of people such as Geoffrey Canada of the Harlem Children's Zone demonstrate NOT that "poor children can be successful" (which is certainly true!) but rather how complex it is to be successful and how many Great Leaders and a lot of money is required to really build "equality" as I, at least, want.

Many who came out of West Lafayette are incredibly successful in their careers! They also have a lot of things going for them, that most others don't have, particularly those growing up poor, amongst other poor people.