Paul Tough: Directing Attention Away from "No Excuses" Pt. 1
Helping Children Succeed was reported and written with the generous support of five philanthropic organizations: the CityBridge Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the Raikes Foundation, theBainum Family Foundation, and the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation.
Paul Tough has written a new book that aspires to put into action a host of bad ideas that Tough advocated in his 2012 book, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character. In that book, Tough outlined the eugenics-inspired elitist dream to use schooling to alter poor children’s brains and nervous systems so that they, essentially, become academically immune to the effects of poverty—that corrosive malady that Tough’s wealthy patrons have no interest in doing anything about. And why should they if the segregated urban poor can produce the test scores that are required to grow the wildly lucrative “no excuses” networks like KIPP, Achievement First, Uncommon Schools, Mastery, Green Dot, Rocketship, etc.
Instead of suggesting that some part of the billions in philanthropic dollars be used to attack the problem of child poverty at its roots, Tough, in that 2012 book, focused, instead, on the virtues of the “no excuses” charter reform schools to develop “performance character,” which he claimed would provide enough grit, self-control, and gratitude to neutralize the damaging effects of poverty on poor children’s low test scores.
Tough’s first book fantasized about exploiting the neural plasticity of children of the poor, and the KIPP schools were held up as models of successful programs that grind out gritty kids who excel in self-control, gratitude, zest, and the other corporate character virtues that allow for high productivity among students and workers, despite deplorable living and work conditions. Like most fantasies, Tough’s 2012 book depended upon creating an alternate reality to match his dystopian pipe dream of dredging new neural pathways in children’s brains to improve their performance character, or work habits.
In Tough’s gritty sci-fi fantasy, he falsely equated higher test scores that KIPP’s unpaid child workers generate under the soul-crushing tutelage of inexperienced teachers as an indication that improved character (grit and self-control) had been achieved. Like other measures used in Schools Matter: Paul Tough: Directing Attention Away from "No Excuses" Pt. 1: