Brief Comment on Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed

In How Children Succeed, Paul Tough walks us through the chemical proccesses of children who have been through traumatic experiences and how those emotions, if not catered to, can affect not only a students education but lifelong experiences. Whle he also talks about how character, especially grit, can help children become more effective students, and in turn, better citizens, I love his emphasis on the role of the parent. 

As far as students underperforming on exams goes, a lot of people blame teachers and are either ingnorant or too politcal-minded to rest some of that blame on parents. His last chapter, titled “A Better Path”, note how parents and role models play a significant position in a child/young adult’s mental development. These relationships are almost always personal and are better developed through one-on-one interactions. Some public school teachers are trying to aid 30 kids to a class, 45 minutes at a time, making it difficult to cultivate a personal, on-going relationship. Parents, however, are able to interact with their kids more frequently and for a much longer period of time than any single teacher ever could. 

This has always been my train of thought, but I love how Tough essentially says that parents do not need to be academically inclined to make their child a better student. Providing them with the understanding of hardwork, optimism, curiosity and a sense of protection, parents can be one of their child’s most powerful resources, not neccessarily a teacher (…though of course they play a big part, as well).

On Economics in Public High Schools

Bank

While I understand the debate of which literary works should and shoud not be taught in public schools is imporant, in this day and age, I think there should be emphasis on economics.

As an English major and Creative Writing minor, I’m all about litearture and reading. But Between the temporary scare of the fiscal cliff and the very slow recovery from the increase in in unemployment, the economy has our constant attention, or, at least it should. The main reason why 2008 financial crisis and subsequent recession occurred is because, well, no one (myself included), knew anything. We left it up to the big guys, who proved to be very small, sleazy, or both (with the exception of a few). My own neighbor, a 45 year old woman who reads an insane about of gossip magazine, hadn’t a clue of what a surplus or a deficit was. I mean, she knew in the sense that it could apply to her monthly bills, but hadn’t the technical terms to call it.

Daniel Hamermesh, an economist and professor at the University of Texas, titled his book “Economics is Everywhere.” Oh how true this is; we just aren’t educated enough on the subject area to realize it. Parents seem to be over worried that children are getting too much fantasy and not enough practical application of their studies. With economics, we could tie it to every day actions that a student can easily relate to. The purchasing of lunch is an example of something supplied because it was demanded by the student. Or, the changes in a bag of Doritos in a year is something that a student could notice but doesn’t realize the economic reasoning behind the fluctuation in prices. Or, that money is a medium of exchange. At some point in my distant past, I would have considered Yu-Gi-Oh cards a medium of exchange, at least for 90s kids. I could get anything I wanted with an Exodus, which would be the equivalent of a million dollars (think children like exaggeration). The idea that when supply goes down so prices raise the roof was evident to north eastern families as an effect of Hurricane Sandy. I pointed this out to my brother when we had to wake up at three o’clock in the morning, buy two batteries (not packs but single batteries) for $4 for our flashlight, then wait on line for three hours to see if we could get gas at a station we heard would get electricity (that never happened).

Basic economics is fairly practical and forever so constant that we should learn it pre-college. I stress this because not everyone goes to college, but most people, or at least more people go to high school than college (duh), so there’d be a wider audience. It should be a mandatory course not just optional, like English or basic algebra. I have a friend who did not take economics at all in high school (she doesn’t remember why), and another friend who too it because it was optional (it was that or Government). I say, no more choices. We need to better prepare Americans on what is going on.

Had friend number one taken economics and she were pointed to the unemployment rate and decrease in funding in higher education, then she might have thought twice about picking a school with such high tuition costs.

So when the next economic scare comes around (in late February) we would know or have some idea of what the journalist on CNN is talking about. There are a lot of people who get caught up in the hype and haven’t a shoe of what the fuss is about, let’s not make out children one of them.

This post was inspired by Daniel Hamermesh’s “Economics is Everywhere,” and Michael Lewis’ “Boomerang”, my current reads for the week.