The following is a continuation of my notes on Paul Tough’s book, How Children Succeed:
Chapter 2 HOW TO BUILD CHARACTER p. 49
- Best Class Ever – 1999 KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) Academy – 8th grade – all Black and Hispanic, most low-income, earned the highest scores of ANY school in the Bronx (just four years in the program).
Climb the Mountain to College – college was always the goal
But only 8 got a college degree
Culture shock – overwhelmed
While in KIPP, they felt and acted like a family
KIPP did not prepare them for high school emotionally or psychologically
Nobody checks your homework
- Learned Optimism p. 52
Levin noticed that the kids who succeeded in high school and graduated from college were not necessarily the highest academically. They possessed other gifts: optimism, social agility, resilience. Levin called these CHARACTER STRENGTHS.
Martin Seligman – Learned Optimism – it’s a skill that can be learned, not innate
Pessimistic adults and children can train themselves to be optimistic
Will lead to more happiness, health and success
Seligman – depression is simply a severe low mood
Pessimists react to negative events by explaining them as permanent, personal and pervasive
(e.g. failed a test because you’re stupid, not because you failed to prepare)
Seligman yelled a lot, in his class
Levin did a book study with his staff. Why do some of our students feel not well-liked?
- Riverdale p. 55
Levin grew up in a ritzy area of Riverdale – he was a standout student in math and science AND the captain of the basketball team; Director of his boarding school believes CHARACTER is missing in today’s qualifications in school (grit, working hard, perseverance).
Daniel Goleman – Emotional Intelligence
Randolph, Seligman and Levin had a meeting – the beginning of a fruitful alliance
- Character Strengths p. 58
Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification by Seligman and Peterson
A study in character; an effort to identify (concretely) what character is
Finalized 24 character strengths they believed to be universally respected
includes : bravery, citizenship, fairness, wisdom, integrity; love, humor, zest, appreciation of beauty; day-to-day interactions (social intelligence), kindness, gratitude
–These virtues were chosen because they could lead to the “good life” of fulfillment and meaning – had practical benefits
Seligman and Peterson – defined character as malleable – skills you can learn and practice and teach
- Not finger wagging or blaming, but focus on personal growth (pg. 60)
- Self-Control and Willpower
Seligman, Levin and Randolph turned to Angela Duckworth (in her PhD dissertation, after working in schools, she said the problem was not just in schools, but students themselves) “Learning is hard…it can be daunting, exhausting and sometimes discouraging…character is at least as important as intellect.”
Duckworth started her research with self-discipline: 164 8th graders.
Self-discipline levels were more indicative to GPA than IQ.
Collaborated with Walter Mischel, famous for his marshmallow test with four-year olds (delayed gratification study).
Duckworth was intrigued by this study – how did those with more self-discipline strategize or help themselves to delay gratification?
“Children who did best at this test created their own distractions.” [Talked, sang, covered their eyes, one kid took a nap]
With simple prompts, children were able to think of the marshmallow abstractly, which led to higher success.
After a six week long course to help students develop self-discipline, students believed they improved, but they didn’t.
Marshmallows were easy…very clear goals.
High school and college graduation are not as clear or tangible.
Duckworth divided the mechanics of achievement into two: motivation and volition. BOTH are requisites.
What if students just aren’t motivated to achieve the goals their teachers or parents want them to achieve?
All the self-control tricks in the world will not help.
But motivation can still occur. It’s just highly complex. Rewards sometimes backfire.
Reward systems in schools (stickers, candy, prizes) have not been successful.
- The Coding-Speed Test p. 66
No one really knows how to motivate people well.What motivates us is hard to explain and hard to measure.
Different personality types respond differently to different motivations.
The coding-speed test (Segal) actually tested the test-takers’ inclination to force themselves to care about the world’s most boring test.
It was proof that they TRIED harder. The low-stakes, low-reward test predicted how well someone is going to do in life. Over decades, Segal gave the test to the same people and in their forties, he compared their salaries. Those who scored high on this test made considerably higher salaries.
What Segal’s study measured was conscientiousness.
Brent Roberts, U of IL (Urbana-Champaign) – reigning expert on conscientiousness
This was not studied much by researchers because it denoted “control” and nobody wants to talk about people being controlled. However, Industrial/Organizational Psychology grew into everyone’s consciousness – because companies want to hire the most productive, reliable and diligent workers they can find. They found that conscientiousness was critical.
Roberts found that people high in conscientiousness:
- get better grades in high school and college;
- Commit fewer crimes;
- Stay married longer;
- Live longer (fewer strokes, lower BP, lower incidence of Alzheimers)
The Downside of Self-Control (p. 71)
People who are critics of the education setting are not swayed by conscientiousness findings.
“Strength of character” – includes conscientiousness, responsibility, insistently orderly, determined and persevering.
- This measure was 3x more successful in predicting college performance than SAT scores or college rank
- Critics believe there is an inverse relationship between high GPA and creativity; that corporations want “drones” to simply follow directions and work
- Conscientiousness and self-control go hand in hand
- Critics (Jack Block, UC Berkeley) believes highly conscientious people are “compulsive, anxious and repressed.”
- A New Zealand study, however, runs contrary to this finding: a three-decade long study following children into adulthood found a strong correlation between lack of self-control to (at the age of 32)- more likely to have health problems, bad credit rating and trouble with the law (3x higher than those who demonstrated self-control as young children). Also, 3x more likely to have multiple addictions and 2x as likely to raise children in a single household.