In my last post about How Children Succeed, by Paul Tough, I considered how Advanced Placement (AP, IB, and other courses designed to teach college courses at the high school level) try to challenge high achieving students. Certainly, these rigorous (often defined as requiring lots of hours of study outside of class, that is, homework) can teach self-discipline, which is measured by grades. However, good grades don’t always lead to success. And my research has shown that for the jobs of the future, we really need to be teaching innovators. So what do grades have to do with teaching innovators? Nothing.
“[Self-discipline] may be very useful for predicting who will graduate from high school, but it’s not as relevant when it come to identifying who might invent a new technology or direct an award-winning movie.” – Angela Duckworth, How Children Succeed p 74
Self-discipline isn’t good a good predictor of innovators and teaching it isn’t teaching innovators.
This really gets to the heart of what I’m searching for.
If your child is able to attend a high achieving high school, somehow manage to get everything right and succeed teaching your teenager learn how the handle stress and time management, are they still going to be missing something? And in fact, even more worrying, might you be even teaching something important out of them?
This is something that’s addressed in the next book I read, World Class Learners. And in How Children Succeed, Tough refers to the 1976 book, Schooling in Capitalist America, by Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis, that argues that “the schools system [is] rigged to create a docile proletariat… [that rewards] repressed drones.” That sounds a little extreme. But it’s similar to the ideas put forward by Excellent Sheep about an Ivy League education.
Another interesting point was that Bowles and Gintis “… found that the students with the highest GPAs were the ones who scored lowest on measure of creativity and independence…” How Children Succeed, p 72
Creativity and independence are obviously really important for research, innovation, and entrepreneurship. But in an education system that mainly teaches self-discipline, are we teaching innovation and creativity out of our best and brightest students?
And further, in the case of the already straight-A students who go on to take the AP classes, many if not all of them have already learned self-discipline. Do they need to learn something different, instead, in high school? And what else is that?
Unfortunately, other than coming to the conclusion that the typical, rigorous course schedule for high-achieving students is leading to a decrease in their creativity and innovation, I didn’t find any information in How Children Succeed about how to encourage, or teach, creativity and innovation. Maybe because creativity and innovation are so hard to grade.
In my next post, I’ll look at another conclusion I found in How Children Succeed that was not what Tough was going for at all. While he structured most of the book around trying to figure out how the school system can be used to prepare disadvantaged kids to finish college as a measure of success, he also gave evidence that the success of graduating from college, self-discipline, isn’t necessarily enough for real and lifetime success.
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