Proposes that the two biggest factors that determine whether a child succeeds or fails are:
- Stress and traumatic events in childhood is bad, and this can be mitigated if the parents give the child attention.
- Grit / perseverence / self-control is important, more so than IQ.
The book describes several programs implemented in low-income, mostly black schools for disadvantaged students. These programs help teach the students grit and get them on the track to college, even though their environment is not conducive to learning, and they’re often several years behind from the start.
There are a bunch of places where I’m skeptical of the claims:
- Grit and self-control is important, which is obvious. Not clear how to teach these traits to students, if they don’t already have it. The book only says parental nurture helps. Maybe good teachers help, but a teacher is only limited to about 25 students at a time, so this is not scalable on a national policy level.
- Evidence of causal effect is weak, there’s no systematic controlled study, rather, the author cherry-picks examples of hard-working students in the intervention programs. There’s never any statistics that these programs are actually working, and the success rates are still quite low even after intervention.
- The book focuses exclusively on low-income black populations, and defines success as getting into / finishing college. It’s unclear how much of the lessons generalize to middle-class kids, since graduating college seems like a low bar for “success” for all but the most disadvantaged children.