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.    

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