Paul Tough explores how we often overestimate how important cognitive skills are compared to self-control or emotion regulation. These skills turn out to be particularly important for children living in poverty, who experience more trauma than other other segments of society.
These skills Tough terms character include the ability to work hard toward a goal and stick to it in the face of adversity and setbacks, the ability to rebound after failure, the inclination to do one’s best even in the absence of obvious external rewards, the ability to delay gratification. I think of honesty, compassion, kindness, etc as character.
There is an interesting chapter on a low income school with a fabulous award winning chess team. One of the youngsters becomes a grandmaster as a teenager, obviously a smart kid, but is unable to score well on a high school entrance exam, because he lacks basics like where is Australia on a map.
Tough posits that early interventions will be more successful if they focus less on cognitive skills and more on self-control and emotion regulation. He also looks at ways children from rich families need to learn how to fail.