“writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. we are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. it's like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. you can't stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.”
- anne lamott

Monday, July 16, 2012

Whatever it Takes

one thought that's interesting about this book is the question of agency. The first chapter is documenting all the lines of thought on poverty and inequality. Geoffrey Canada says, "when I meet these kids at age three or four, I just don't see any reason they should not be successful." I am comparing again my D.C. experience to my observations at the preschool on campus. Night and day... My assumption was always that it's circumstantial. So what's the difference? Does knowing the cause matter?

"the ideas of the elite are the ruling ideas" this book is talking about how certain styles of parenting, more prominent among the middle class, definitively prepared children better for success. but could that partially be BECAUSE those are the kinds of people who have created the system? the game is stacked in their favor because they made the game. Why should vocabulary matter? Does it actually make you SMARTER? what does it mean to be smarter? Farah's study DID show that poorer children had problems not just with language but also with long term and working memory as well as cognitive control (the ability to resist obvious but wrong answers and find unexpected ones)

 "children's scores on the language tests were predicted by parents' cognitive stimulation. Children's scores on the memory tests were predicted by social/emotional nuturance." INTERESTING! "There's nothing natural about the process of preparing your child to be competitive in this new world...It might feel natural to upper-middle-class white parents, because they've been culturally saturated by a certain set of values and priorities: prenatal vitamins, Baby Einstein videos, competitive preschools, piano lessons..." a new SET OF VALUES. "
Canada talks about values, but he sees...[them] as a natural consequence of their environment and their history, rather than a moral failure--a problem...that has a distinct cause and a clear (if difficult) solution."

"It was the X factor, the magic ingredient that could outweigh all the careful calculations behind Promise Academy's strategy for success: on top of the hours and hours of cognitive training, what made the difference in many students' lives was a personal connection that was impossible to measure and difficult to replicate."

"GED recipients earn no more than high school dropouts, on average, even when their intelligence scores are higher. And why? Heckman says it is because they lack all of the noncognitive skills that a person must possess in order to make it through high school: patience, persistence, self-confidence, the ability to follow instructions, the ability to delay gratification for a future reward."
"cognitive and noncognitive skills are teachable--but it matters a great deal when you try to teach them."

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