education | October 25, 2012

Paul Tough: How Poverty Can Act As A Barrier To Success

"Let’s give credit where credit is due," Diane Ravitch writes in a blog post about Paul Tough's How Children Succeed. "Tough is smart. He knows what is going on." The ideas that Tough presents in his book about character development, stress and education have sparked a national conversation about the way we teach our children. One part of his book, in particular, stood out to Ravitch, the Research Professor of Education at New York University.

"What he reports about the physiological effects of anxiety and depression is important," she writes. "The reformers who claim that poverty is unimportant should be required to read what Tough writes about how poverty hurts children and undermines their ability to learn." Tough doesn't expect that teachers should be the ones to fix these problems—government and policy reforms need to be made to help those coming from troubled and poverty-stricken backgrounds have the same opportunities to succeed as those who come from privilege. We need to start thinking differently about education, Tough says, and about the fact that sometimes intelligence alone is not able to overcome the psychological challenges of poverty and abuse.

In his talks, Tough addresses these issues head on. Providing extensive research to back up his theories, he dissects the current system of learning in order to help improve it. Drawing from years of experience both studying and writing about education, he gives a fresh perspective on learning and teaching. It's not just teachers, but also parents and policy makers that affect a child's future. Tough argues that the sooner we understand how children learn—and what inhibits them from doing so—the more successful they will become.