I have read numerous books on parenting, on raising children, on the status of education in American schools, on education reform, etc. But only those with a theme or theory that includes a sort of 'tough love,' or a 'keep it simple' approach, or real-world-measurable-results-that-actually-work type ideas.
People have asked (I'm being serious) how are my kids so well behaved. I laugh at them, surely they meant some other kids. The answer is long, but it includes - discipline and standards. People laugh at me when I tell them things we do in our house...or in our yard. They don't believe me. Yes, its true, some of my children have been forced to crawl up hill in the snow in their shorts. But the ones who didn't have to, asked if they could. Mrs. Bannon and I are not perfect parents, but we do work very hard at it.
I do not remember how I came to find this book (though it was not from the author's last name). I believe it was mentioned, or he was interviewed, on conservative talk radio. However, Paul Tough, is on the Left. I don't recall him coming out and saying that in the book, and for the most part, while you might guess it might be so, you may have some doubt. The book is anecdotal, but discusses numerous studies and theories.
The book focuses on 'at risk' children and schools, and what has worked, or failed, to 'level the playing field.' We all know, or think we know, why affluent children in 'good schools,' whose parents went to college, succeed. And many of the studies and results, Tough points out, have results that you would have intuited. But Tough points out that some people succeed no matter what - and there is something measurable amongst those people. More so than pounding good "education" into them, they need to learn how to work through problems - not just math problems, and reading comprehension problems, but family problems, bully problems, health problems. They need to learn to control themselves, not to be controlled by others. Again, sounds like a "yeah, we know," but he does a good job tying together a lot of different studies, and punctuates it with some great stories.
He also shows that absent good character, and discipline, even extremely able and smart children, will find a way to fail.
In the final summary, Tough's Leftist political ethnocentrism comes through when he does what most of us do, and lets his bias form the baseline of what he THINKS everybody believes. He describes how it is government's job to guarantee a roof over our heads, and a meal, and most Americans believe this. Huh? When I read things like that, I have to go back an reassess his analysis of the topics he discussed.
Overall, it is a good book. I give it two thumbs up, because that is all the thumbs I have. I would find some way to have more thumbs if Tough would have followed up with more ways, techniques, or even anecdotes, on how to teach "learning character, grit, etc," and how to turn things around for individuals on their way to failure. (He may have summarized that in the last chapter, but I started breezing through that when it seemed like he wasn't providing solutions...I just have a hard time paying attention in that last chapter).
If you are a teacher, or homeskooler, its a must read. If you are a parent or grandparent of young children, I would recommend it. If not - if you have the time...