Friday, May 15, 2009

Today's Random Thoughts

-Fascinating article on self-control in the New Yorker (hat tip: Alexander Russo). I still maintain that self-control is one of two major differences I noticed between successful and unsuccessful students while I was teaching. Of course, figuring out how to teach self-control has to be a lot harder than simply figuring out that kids with more of it do better.

-I'm going to hold off on more comments on the David Brooks/Promise Academy/Harlem Children's Zone/No Excuses debate until Sunday. A lot to think through on this.

-Was the "Obama Effect" real? A new study profiled in Newsweek says it might not have been (hat tip: GothamSchools). It should be noted that the new study was done only with only 119 pre-med students taking an MCAT section, and before the November election (but after the Democratic Convention). The authors plan to re-try the experiment soon.

-At some point a couple of weeks ago or so that chapter I helped write on supplemental educational services finally got published (ch. 33). Considering that I wrote the first two drafts in the spring of 2007, it seems like that was long overdue. I'm have distinctly mixed feelings about the way the final version turned out, but I guess you have to start somewhere. Considering the book is $295, I'm not holding my breath waiting for the publisher to send me a copy.


mmazenko said...

The ability to delay gratification has long been written about as a predictor of both educational and eventual career success - and it makes perfect sense to me. I was discussing this with my honors English students the other day - they have a lifestyle in terms of academics that is very much related to delayed gratification. The avoid the urge to cut class or blow off an assignment based on the long term expectation of a better education, a better career, and, subsequently, a better life - and then, of course, they can relax and reward themselves now.

I told them they will delay cutting class to go to Jamba Juice on the expectation that they don't want to end up working at Jamba Juice but would rather own a Jamba Juice or be successful enough to go to Jamba Juice any time they want when they are older.

It makes a lot of sense.

Roger Sweeny said...

Forty-one (!) years ago, Edward Banfield published "The Unheavenly City." In it, he argued that all the popular explanations for poverty were relatively unimportant, and that the urban programs and anti-poverty programs based on them would have limited success.

Those explanations were things like racism, over-crowding, bad housing, bad schools, cultural deprivation, crime, and poverty (poverty causes poverty). The major determinant of poverty, he argued, was "short time horizon." People who planned and deferred gratification succeeded. People who didn't, didn't.

The book got a lot of attention, most of it critical. However, its prediction is holding up pretty well.