Paul Tough pulls together interesting research that highlights the power of non-cognitive abilities to improve educational outcomes. In addition to persuasive scientific evidence of how learnable character traits can boost achievement, Tough also supports the science with real life stories of children that have overcome enormous hurdles.
This is a simply told story that will keep your attention. It isn't pretentious in any way and the writing is accessible even when describing complex science.
If there is any flaw with this book it is that the conclusion feels flimsy. Tough spins a wonderful tale of how children beat the odds, but his idea that these findings somehow invalidate the school reform movement's focus on teacher quality and school-based interventions is off course. Focusing on poverty interventions outside of schools while also focusing on classrooms are not exclusive. It almost seems that Tough is unaware that he was making a welfare reform argument rather than school reform. And that is where his insights fall down. Even has he goes to great lengths to defend schools, he has very little grace with the human services sector.
The narration is great except for one major flaw. When a seemingly white sounding man adopts the accents of what is supposed to be inner-city black females - trouble ensues. At first it was funny. Then it was not.
This story would have been better had there been more lively, interesting characters. There is too much time hearing the voice of a vapid, inexperienced, somewhat ditzy young woman who is the toy of an empty, sullen, perverted old man.
The author could have considered giving more insight into other aspects of the character's lives rather than focusing solely on their abusive relationship.
Listening to this narrator is clear the worst part of the experience. It is like hearing a thin voice bar girl squeak out the dumbest boyfriend story ever. Hearing her channel the voice of male characters is particularly grating and makes those characters sound like Saturday Night Live cartoons.
I spent most of the time listening with a great deal of irritation, mostly because the main character is so dumb.
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