As I covered in my post about getting back into the schedule of the school year, teens in high school are busy, busy, busy, trying to make sure they have enough AP classes, keep their GPA and their class rank high, and fill all the rest of the “free” time they have with extracurriculars and service hours, hoping to have resumes spectacular enough to get into a “good” college. It’s common knowledge that if you do your best in high school – especially if it means you can be valedictorian! – it will show everyone, including colleges, that you have what it takes to be a success in life. But does that common knowledge have it right?
Have we gone to far with the rigor of high school with overwhelming loads of AP classes, extracurriculars and volunteerism? Are there enough hours in a day? And if you don’t encourage that standard of excellence, are you encouraging your child to be a slacker?
If you don’t do what everyone else is doing, how can you be sure your kid is going to succeed?!?
It’s a question that keeps parents up at night.
So when I came across the book How Children Succeed, by Paul Tough, I read it. (I was up, after all.)
I had a hard time summarizing my thoughts on this book because, in the end, what I took away from it wasn’t the main point that Tough was trying to get across.
While one of the case studies that Tough follows is about an elite, private high school, the focus of How Children Succeed is mainly on the difficulties of under-privileged children and asks the question, what do we need to teach disadvantaged students in order for them to make it through college? For kids that wouldn’t be likely to go to more education after high school, success can be defined as graduating from college. That makes success an easy thing to measure. At the end of the book, Tough gives a really good argument that the way to help people out of poverty is not through hand-outs, but through education. the book is worth reading for the last chapter alone.
I found the stories he covered interesting and extremely admirable. And of course I can be thankful that my kids aren’t facing the challenges that many of those kids do. But, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m not out to try to overhaul the U.S. education system. My kids don’t have time to wait. They’re in high school already and we need answers sooner than even I could accomplish that. Ha!
I’m just trying to figure out how to guide my kids through the system we have.
And in the process of trying to make sense out of How Children Succeed applies to my own kids, I came to an alarming conclusion.
The set of qualities that school emphasizes – measures, teaches, and drills – aren’t traits that lead to success.
11 reasons your high-achieving student will fail in life, from the book How Children Succeed
1. Self-discipline is more important to grades and GPAs than IQ.
2. Grades aren’t a good predictor of future success.
3. Lots of homework doesn’t lead to success.
4. Long periods of stress affect brain development and lead to health and mental problems.
5. The ability to persuade people to give you what you need is important to success.
6. To achieve goals, you need the ability to set and approach goals with mental contrasting.
7. Grit, a passionate commitment, requires hours free to dedicate to pursuit of a passion.
8. It’s important to take on challenges that you’re likely to fail.
9. AP classes were created to challenge students, but aren’t fulfilling their purpose.
10. Self-discipline isn’t good a good predictor of innovators.
11. College isn’t needed for success.
In this series of posts, starting tomorrow I’ll look at each of these points in detail, starting with the relationship between grades, IQ, self-discipline, and success.
So what do you think? Do you worry that your kid will or won’t be a success based on their performance in school?
This post contains affiliate links, at absolutely no cost to you if you purchase the products, that allow me to use images and link to products that I find contribute to this post’s information.