Book Club: Intro To “How Children Succeed”
September 17, 2012 § 25 Comments
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Welcome to the first meeting of this year’s Parent Book Club! I’m excited to begin discussion on Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed. This book has created quite a media stir, perhaps because of the success of Tough’s last book, Whatever It Takes, or perhaps because people (like me) are connecting with what they understand to be the message: in our ongoing efforts to stuff more information into our children at earlier and earlier ages, the results aren’t exactly what we thought they’d be. Tough indicates that focusing solely on “cognitive skills” like smarts, IQ, grades and test scores does a disservice to kids at all income levels, although for different reasons. We will get into these disservices, and their reasons, and what scientists have discovered we can do about it, as we dive into the book.
If you are new to the book and want to know more about it, I recommend these commentaries about it at the New York Times, NPR, and here’s a book excerpt at Slate if you want to get a taste of what’s in store.
The Book Club will re-convene next Monday night, September 24, at 8:30 PM CST, to discuss the Introduction, Chapter One: How To Fail (And How Not To), and Chapter Two: How To Build Character. It’s about 50 pages, and shouldn’t be too tough to tackle in a week. Come back and join us, would love to hear your thoughts!
Tonight’s Talk: What does the word “grit” mean to you?
Before we even begin reading the book, I thought it might be interesting to ask what associations you make with one of Tough’s favorite words: “grit.”
The night I met my husband, one of the first things we discovered about each other was that we both had serious car accidents while we were in high school. It was hard not to fall into that conversation; as we sat at a small table with a mutual friend, I noticed instantly that two fingers were missing from his left hand. As we talked about car accidents – how I missed half my junior year basically re-learning how to walk; how he endured eleven surgeries to repair and rebuild his damaged hand – it became clear that we both had hardcore survivalist instincts. But, we also had dedicated families and friends who helped us get our lives back together after the accidents. After my husband’s accident, he turned his meandering school life into a successful bid for college and an impressive career in the arts; after mine, I was determined to get my legs back and sing and dance my way to New York City, which I did. We laughed about the connection we made, and how, since our respective accidents, we always seemed to search out others who had been through hard times and persevered through them. That is what “grit” means to me: the power to take the adversities that come your way, and make them a part of who you are, without letting them define you.
What are your experiences with grit? How would you define it? Do you know “grit” when you see it?