That’s the main idea behind “How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character,” the new book by Paul Tough. In the book, which came out this week, Tough expands on his 2011 New York Times Magazine article about city private and charter school educators’ efforts to figure out why some students thrive in college and beyond while others founder.
The educators’ conclusion was that students with certain habits of mind are more able to handle the challenges that college presents. They decided those habits should be taught — and measured, using a “character report card” that they developed. Tough documents this effort along with other initiatives and new research that support the theory that students possessed of strong character can overcome even staggering odds.
“How Children Succeed” is timely in New York City, where education officials have replaced high school graduation with college success as their top goal for students. The city is encouraging schools to target students’ “soft skills” but has no plans to introduce a character report card, officials say.
We’re inviting our readers to meet Tough and ask him about his book at an event we’re hosting on Sept. 29. Details are on our calendar.
To tide readers over, we’re offering an exclusive excerpt from Tough’s book in the Community section today. The section is from a chapter about the chess team at I.S. 318, which dominates national championships not just for middle schools but for high schools, too. Much of the chapter focuses on Elizabeth Spiegel, the school’s chess teacher, who pushes her students to develop many of the same character values that other educators are thinking systematically about how to teach.
“Teaching chess is really about teaching the habits that go along with thinking,” Spiegel explained to me one morning when I visited her classroom. “Like how to understand your mistakes and how to be more aware of your thought processes.”