Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Don't Call My Kid Smart: Call Her Hardworking. an Educator Argues That Chalking Up Achievement to Natural Ability Sends the Wrong Message

Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Don't Call My Kid Smart: Call Her Hardworking. an Educator Argues That Chalking Up Achievement to Natural Ability Sends the Wrong Message

Article excerpt

NOTHING STRIKES QUITE LIKE the truth, and James Stigler delivered it to me right on the chin with an excerpt I came upon from his book The Learning Gap (Simon & Schuster, 1992). In the book, Stigler, a UCLA professor of psychology, sets out to discover why students in Asia regularly outperform American students in math. His research leads him to a conclusion so basic it's downright crude: Asian kids try harder. And they do, Stigler poses, because their culture teaches them that effort determines success. American education believes in ability--you either have it or you don't. The kids we think don't--to them we offer the consolation of lowered expectations, which are generally, swiftly fulfilled.

It was all so fraught with sense, it startled and then embarrassed me. I do do that. I have thought that. With every academic success, I have declared my daughter smart. Why did she pick up addition quickly? She's smart! Why are her reading skills coming along? She's smart!

She may well be. I'll never tell her she's not smart, but I also know she tries--she is a diligent tryer, and that, James Stigler has persuaded me to preach to her, and to believe, is why she is doing well.

It's an over-regard for self-esteem that Stigler points up. Attributing our kids' achievement to their natural ability buoys them . …

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