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."