Our guest this week is Paul Tough. His new book HOW CHILDREN SUCCEED: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character (9.4.12) turns conventional wisdom about child development on its head. Most of us assume that the most important factor in a child’s success is IQ – the kind of cognitive skills that can be measured on standardized tests. Tough argues that the more important factor is a set of traits that most of us think of as “character”: skills like grit, curiosity, conscientiousness, and optimism.
Why do certain children succeed while other children fail? Why is it that poor children are less likely to succeed than middle-class children? And what can we all do to steer more kids toward success? In his reporting, Tough visited schools, pediatric clinics, neuroscience rat labs, and elite chess tournaments, and he discovered that both inside the classroom and outside, character makes a big difference to a child’s success. “Character is molded by the environment in which we grow up,” Tough says. “It can be taught not just by parents but by schools, coaches, and mentors as well. Which means we all have a responsibility to help kids develop their character – as well as their math skills.”
Tough has written acclaimed articles about character and childhood in the New York Times Magazine and The New Yorker (including a recent story in the NYT Magazine). This new book was was reviewed n the New York Times Book Review.