Reading, Math and Grit: Education remains the country’s most critical issue and No One Wants To Talk About It
Early in his acceptance speech Thursday night, President Obama gave a nod to his administration’s backing of education reform. “Some of the worst schools in the country have made real gains in math and reading,” he said, calling on the country to add 100,000 math and science teachers in the next decade. Then he moved on to other topics, like foreign policy and Medicare, that he clearly views as more vital to the campaign as it enters the home stretch.
It is hardly a surprise that education isn’t a heated subject in the presidential race. Not when the economy is still sluggish, and the fight over the role of government so central. Besides, Republicans and Democrats alike have tried to fix education: George W. Bush with “No Child Left Behind,” and Obama with his administration’s “Race to the Top.” Those “real gains” notwithstanding, progress remains fitful and frustrating. Too many disadvantaged children remain poorly educated. Too many high school graduates don’t attend — or drop out — of college, which has become the prerequisite for a middle-class existence.
Which is why the publication of a new book, entitled “How Children Succeed,” written by Paul Tough, a former editor of the Times Magazine, is such a timely reminder that education remains the country’s most critical issue. In “How Children Succeed,” Tough argues that simply teaching math and reading — the so-called cognitive skills — isn’t nearly enough, especially for children who have grown up enduring the stresses of poverty. In fact, it might not even be the most important thing.