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US Education & 7 Strengths That Predict Success

Must read article from NY Times Magazine on US education by Paul Tough.

US education system is in bad shape, but not for reasons you expect. What direction are you leading your children when it comes to education and success? Are we teaching and putting our kids in an environment to teach them really how to succeed? You need to read this article, especially if your kids are younger and they are not yet on or not too far on the treadmill for the race to nowhere.

The author explains how the profiled experts have identified seven strengths – zest, grit, self-control, social intelligence, gratitude, optimism and curiosity – as the true indicators of success.

As Levin watched the progress of those KIPP alumni, (Note – read the article to get the context and references) he noticed something curious: the students who persisted in college were not necessarily the ones who had excelled academically at KIPP; they were the ones with exceptional character strengths, like optimism and persistence and social intelligence. They were the ones who were able to recover from a bad grade and resolve to do better next time; to bounce back from a fight with their parents; to resist the urge to go out to the movies and stay home and study instead; to persuade professors to give them extra help after class.

And . . .

This is a problem, of course, for all parents, not just affluent ones. It is a central paradox of contemporary parenting, in fact: we have an acute, almost biological impulse to provide for our children, to give them everything they want and need, to protect them from dangers and discomforts both large and small. And yet we all know — on some level, at least — that what kids need more than anything is a little hardship: some challenge, some deprivation that they can overcome, even if just to prove to themselves that they can. As a parent, you struggle with these thorny questions every day, and if you make the right call even half the time, you’re lucky. But it’s one thing to acknowledge this dilemma in the privacy of your own home; it’s quite another to have it addressed in public, at a school where you send your kids at great expense.

And . . .

“The idea of building grit and building self-control is that you get that through failure,” Randolph explained. “And in most highly academic environments in the United States, no one fails anything.”

Most Riverdale students can see before them a clear path to a certain type of success. They’ll go to college, they’ll graduate, they’ll get well-paying jobs — and if they fall along the way, their families will almost certainly catch them, often well into their 20s or even 30s, if necessary. But despite their many advantages, Randolph isn’t yet convinced that the education they currently receive at Riverdale, or the support they receive at home, will provide them with the skills to negotiate the path toward the deeper success that Seligman and Peterson hold up as the ultimate product of good character: a happy, meaningful, productive life. Randolph wants his students to succeed, of course — it’s just that he believes that in order to do so, they first need to learn how to fail.

For a parallel perspective, here is Seth Godin on how our education system is churning out droids trained to follow orders and do jobs that will ultimately be outsourced.

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