Book Club: Chapters 2 and 3 in “How Children Succeed”
October 1, 2012 § 56 Comments
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I don’t know about you, but I found chapters 2 and 3 – “How To Build Character” and “How To Think,” the best ones yet. I couldn’t stop thinking about the IS 318 chess team, about their teacher (she reminded me very much of my high school theater teacher, Andy Lindauer, who believed strongly in pointing out mistakes in order to get it right – and the results were similarly fantastic), and about what it really takes to get good at something: a mix of smarts and dedication, perseverance and grit. The story of those boys becoming national chess champions (and chess masters) is truly inspiring – even including the depressing realization that the same kids who are clearly brilliant at chess are lagging behind in school, due to a lack in accumulated knowledge. (This is a discussion for another time: did you find yourself asking, how did these smarty-pants get to eighth grade without knowing the name of a single European country?)
Yet the thing that has hung with me, and that has affected me the most, is Chapter 2, “How To Build Character.” I was fascinated by the contrast of the KIPP school list of character traits and the Riverdale School’s list – how different they were, how different cultures and groups put different character traits at the forefront for different reasons, and what this says about us. I couldn’t stop thinking about the cheating scandals at Stuyvesant, Harvard, the entire Atlanta school district – and how our over-importance on some things could be contributing to a lack of oversight in others (namely, “success” and “integrity”). I thought about what has transpired on Wall Street over the past five years. I couldn’t help but wonder: what character traits am I emphasizing to my kids, whether unwittingly or not? How can I weave in some others that I find important but haven’t really considered until now?
The Book Club will re-convene next Monday night, October 2, at 8:30 PM CST, to discuss the end of the book – Chapter Four: How to Succeed, and Chapter Five: A Better Path. It’s about 60 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: Which character traits are most important to you, and why? Tough breaks character traits down into two groups: the “virtues” like honesty, kindness and inclusion, and the “success” traits like grit, perseverance, and my personal favorite, zest. Which ones is your school teaching? Which ones do our kids absorb: the need to persevere at all costs? Or to be kind, to be honest? Which character traits does our society support?