Friday, October 12, 2012

Real and lasting success

A variety of current references to schooling, learning, testing, and success.  From Dark Matter to the Rug Rat Race.  From Chinese physics students to "non-cognitive skills."  Is there a sea change at work?

opting out of the 'rug rat race'
American children, especially those who grow up in relative comfort, are, more than ever, shielded from failure as they grow up. They certainly work hard; they often experience a great deal of pressure and stress; but in reality, their path through the education system is easier and smoother than it was for any previous generation. Many of them are able to graduate from college without facing any significant challenges. But if this new research is right, their schools, their families, and their culture may all be doing them a disservice by not giving them more opportunities to struggle. Overcoming adversity is what produces character. And character, even more than IQ, is what leads to real and lasting success.

This American Life with Ira Glass
Ira talks with Paul Tough, author of the new book How Children Succeed, about the traditional ways we measure ability and intelligence in American schools. They talk about the focus on cognitive abilities, conventional "book smarts." They discuss the current emphasis on these kinds of skills in American education, and the emphasis standardized testing, and then turn our attention to a growing body of research that suggests we may be on the verge of a new approach to some of the biggest challenges facing American schools today. Paul Tough discusses how “non-cognitive skills” — qualities like tenacity, resilience, impulse control — are being viewed as increasingly vital in education, and Ira speaks with economist James Heckman, who’s been at the center of this research and this shift.

schooling beyond measure
The reason that standardized-test results tend to be so uninformative and misleading is closely related to the reason that these tests are so popular in the first place....

The common denominator? Our culture's worshipful regard for numbers. Roger Jones, a physicist, called it "the heart of our modern idolatry ... the belief that the quantitative description of things is paramount and even complete in itself."

why some kids succeed
The book takes on what Tough calls the “cognitive hypothesis,” the idea that success hinges on mental processing speed and traditional brainpower. Instead, citing lots of interesting research, Tough shows that “non-cognitive skills” – perseverance, optimism, self-control, and so on – are actually what matter most.

rote learning vs creative thinking
'The results suggest that years of rigorous training of physics knowledge in middle and high schools have made significant impact on Chinese students’ ability in solving physics problems, while such training doesn’t seem to have direct effects on their general ability in scientific reasoning, which was measured to be at the same level as that of the students in USA,

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  1. Einstein so famously said, "Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts."

    [In reference to: Roger Jones, a physicist, called it "the heart of our modern idolatry ... the belief that the quantitative description of things is paramount and even complete in itself."]


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