Inner-city charter schools may have an advantage over expensive private ones -- they build character
Flickr/Santa Catalina School
With Stanley Bosworth gone, there's a vacancy for a New York City rock star headmaster. The Times Magazine's candidate: Riverdale School's Dominic Randolph. The crux of it is that expensive private schools like Riverdale groom students to be as close to total, all-around successes as possible, while failure can help build determination, perseverance, curiosity, and other qualities summarized as grit.
The article reviews the copious psychological literature behind the value of adversity in building success. It isn't as new as it seems. It's recently been invoked by luminaries from Steve Jobs to J. K. Rowling. Centuries earlier, grit and systematic, conscientious planning was a major theme of the archetypical American self-made genius, Benjamin Franklin, and the other Founders also displayed it, as I suggested here.
Samuel Smiles, the Scottish creator of the modern motivational book (and a not terribly successful physician before he turned to writing) wrote in Self-Help (1859; 1882 edition excerpted):
Daily experience shows that it is energetic individualism which produces the most powerful effects upon the life and action of others, and really constitutes the best practical education. Schools, academies, and colleges, give but the merest beginnings of culture in comparison with it. Far more influential is the life-education daily given in our homes, in the streets, behind counters, in workshops, at the loom and the plough, in counting-houses and manufactories, and in the busy haunts of men. This is that finishing instruction as members of society, which Schiller designated 1he education of the human race," consisting in action, conduct, self-culture, self-control,-all that tends to discipline a man truly, and fit him for the proper performance of the duties and business of life,-a kind of education not to be learnt from books, or acquired by any amount of mere literary training.
In fact psychologists studying underwater space simulation training of astronauts thirty years ago identified what they called a Teddy Roosevelt Effect -- those candidates who had been seriously ill as children had somehow developed more determination. And the Hygiene Hypothesis, the idea that playing in dirt helps children build their immune systems and that excessive cleanliness may lead to allergies and asthma, continues to gain ground.