Author of the new book “How Children Succeed,” Paul Tough examines the personality characteristics that influence individual success in children such as grit, persistence, curiosity, conscientiousness, self-control and self-confidence. He argues that in many ways these personality characteristics are more important than sheer brainpower alone and that they can be taught. I think this in particular should be of interest to @ygolo because it challenges "the cognitive hypothesis" the belief that success depends primarily on cognitive skills.
Excerpts from the NYT article:
Psychologists and neuroscientists have learned a lot in the past few decades about where these skills come from and how they are developed,” Tough writes, and what they’ve discovered can be summed up in a sentence: Character is created by encountering and overcoming failure. In this absorbing and important book, Tough explains why American children from both ends of the socioeconomic spectrum are missing out on these essential experiences. The offspring of affluent parents are insulated from adversity, beginning with their baby-proofed nurseries and continuing well into their parentally financed young adulthoods. And while poor children face no end of challenges — from inadequate nutrition and medical care to dysfunctional schools and neighborhoods — there is often little support to help them turn these omnipresent obstacles into character-enhancing triumphs. The book illuminates the extremes of American childhood: for rich kids, a safety net drawn so tight it’s a harness; for poor kids, almost nothing to break their fall.I think this also challenges the much loved idea of individual determination alone being the determiner of success which is an oft repeated sentiment within America. That if you "just work hard" and put your nose to the grindstone you WILL succeed and that disparities in economics, race (and the discrimination that often entails having to deal with), gender, sexual orientation, etc do not matter. Because people's stress in many ways can decrease with income, those who are financially well off often become weaker as well because they do not necessarily experience the failure necessary to build their character in the way that allows them to be most successful.Many poor children don’t develop the resilience Kewauna has in such abundance, and the reason, Tough says, can be traced back to their troubled home lives: “The part of the brain most affected by early stress is the prefrontal cortex, which is critical in self-regulatory activities of all kinds, both emotional and cognitive. As a result, children who grow up in stressful environments generally find it harder to concentrate, harder to sit still, harder to rebound from disappointments and harder to follow directions. And that has a direct effect on their performance in school.