Monday, November 4

How Children Succeed... or Don't

I only recently figured out how to use my library's download-able audio book feature, and I was delighted when my efforts were rewarded with the ability to listen to How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character.

This has been on my reading list for ages, but I haven't been able to get my hands on a copy, so it was with much anticipation that I hit the "play" button and waited for the greatness to begin.

Only instead of heralding greatness, I found that the title disguised a great mess! Although the author is quick to state his very reasonable- sounding thesis up front, the book quickly devolves quickly into divergent, uncoordinated and sometimes blatantly unrelated material. The content meanders without clear purpose before slumping into long stretches of un-engaging and overly detailed observations about disadvantaged students and their teachers. It never manages to recover into a coherent, cohesive or compelling conclusion.

I didn't find a single argument that hadn't been already made (and far better presented) in other places, but the author treats them all like startling new material.

What galled me the most was that after spending an entire book proving (perhaps accidentally) what we already knew - that stable homes and capable, loving parents are the key to creating healthy, well-adjusted and successful children at every economic level - the author tries to blame our education system and politics for the massive failure rates of impoverished children. He accuses us of not spending enough money on education and anti-poverty measures and suggests that only a handful of deeply committed educators are actually making a difference and the rest should be scrapped. 

As I always am when such discussions arise, I remain appalled and baffled at this logic. How is it the school's fault or a politician's fault that a child was born to a drug addict mother and a dirt-bag father who has 15 kids by seven different women? What possible sense does it make to spend eight or ten hours a day for 18 years trying to mitigate and compensate for the physical, mental, social and emotional damage being caused to children, only to send them back to hell hole in which they live for fresh damage every night? It's not about poverty, or intelligence or "the system" - it's about the reality that we as a society are letting people clearly unfit to take care of so much as a goldfish have and keep as many children as they can pop out, even though we KNOW that it means lifetimes of abuse, abysmal odds for recovery and success, and is the number one cause of gangs, murderers, serial killers, serial rapists and other violent, incorrigible criminal activity. (That is not hyperbole - it's a proven fact.)

How many more children need to end up murdered and thrown away by parents who should never have been allowed to have them in the first place before we acknowledge what has painted clearly before us for more than a century and agree to tackle our social ills at the root - in our homes?

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