How Children Succeed, by Paul Tough


“GED recipients look exactly like high-school dropouts, despite the fact they they have earned this supposedly valuable extra credential, and despite the fact that they are, on average, considerably more intelligent than high-school dropout” (pg xviii).

“Those traits - an inclination to persist at a boring and often unrewarding task; the ability to delay gratification; the tendency to follow through on a plan - also turned out to be valuable in college, in the workplace, and in life generally . . . GED holders are wise guys who lack the ability to think ahead, persist in tasks, or to adapt to their environments” (pg xix).

“You can’t expect to solve the problems of a school without taking into account what’s happening in the community” (pg 5).

“The key channel through which early adversity causes damage to developing bodies and brains is stress (pg 12).

Quantifying Character:

  1. Grit

  2. self-control

  3. zest

  4. social intelligence

  5. gratitude

  6. optimism

  7. curiosity

“The best way for a young person to build character is for him to attempt something where there is a real and serious possibility of failure . . . and in most highly academic environments in the United States, no one fails anything” (pg 85, 86).

“Habit and character are essentially the same thing . . . It’s not like some kids are good and some kids are bad. Some kids have good habits and some kids have bad habits. Kids understand it when you put it that way, because they know habits might be hard to change, but they’re not impossible to change. William James says our nervous systems are like a sheet of paper. You fold it over and over and over again, and pretty soon it has a crease . . . When your students leave, you want to make sure they have the kind of creases that will lead them to success later on” (pg 94).

“Two of the most important executive functions are cognitive flexibility and cognitive self-control. Cognitive flexibility is the ability to see alternative solutions to problems, to think outside the box, to negotiate unfamiliar situations. Cognitive self-control is the ability to inhibit an instinctive or habitual response and substitute a more effective, less obvious one” (pg 114).

“Non-cognitive skills like resilience and resourcefulness and grit are highly predictive of success in college” (pg 168).