Thomas Edsall is an opinion columnist for the New York Times who often writes about the intersection of inequality and politics. His articles typically synthesize research findings and the perspectives of experts, whose commentary he frequently quotes. His latest piece, “What Does It Take to Climb Up the Ladder?” discusses the important role of non-cognitive skills and character strengths in social mobility.
Edsall draws on the work on numerous researchers to show the links between income, maternal education, and family stability, on the one hand, and non-cognitive skills on the other. As he concludes,
“The result is a vicious circle: family disruption perpetuates disadvantage by creating barriers to the development of cognitive and noncognitive skills, which in turn sharply reduces access to college. The lack of higher education decreases life chances, including the likelihood of achieving adequate material resources and a stable family structure for the next generation.”
Edsall highlights Paul Tough’s work on the importance of environments in which children feel a sense of belonging and growth and experience relatedness and competence. He challenges policymakers, and Democrats in particular, to find ways to support family stability and “capitalize on the ample supply of character strengths evident among America’s poor.”
New York Times: “What Does It Take to Climb Up the Ladder?”
From the New York Times: “Loneliness can accelerate cognitive decline in older adults, and isolated individuals are twice as likely to die prematurely as those with more robust social interactions. These effects start early: Socially isolated children have significantly poorer health 20 years later, even after controlling for other factors. All told, loneliness is as important a risk factor for early death as obesity and smoking.”
For articles on how P-3 efforts can support positive social connections, see Mario Small’s, The Ties That Bind: How Childcare Centers Build Social Capital, this post on community networks in Washington State, and principle 4 of the P-3 Theory of Action. More to come.
NYT: “How Social Isolation is Killing Us“
Do children in a keyboard world need to learn old-fashioned handwriting?
There is a tendency to dismiss handwriting as a nonessential skill, even though researchers have warned that learning to write may be the key to, well, learning to write.
And beyond the emotional connection adults may feel to the way we learned to write, there is a growing body of research on what the normally developing brain learns by forming letters on the page, in printed or manuscript format as well as in cursive.
New York Times: http://goo.gl/RZqcvF
This is a story about the single most important feat of construction our society undertakes. It is about the assembly required in order to build physically, emotionally, cognitively, and socially healthy children. It’s a process as complex as the most challenging feat of engineering, and a process that is easily thwarted by poverty and stress. The healthy child does not come pre-assembled: work is required.
This story begins with the amazing journey of 100 North Carolina babies born into poverty, whose life trajectories were altered with a single intervention: high quality educational child care. They remain part of one of the world’s most famous long-running studies of child development—the Abecedarian Project—and it started right here, in this town, at this university ….
From Kathleen Gallagher’s popular TEDxUNC talk. See here for the text.
Don’t miss Let the Kids Learn Through Play, which includes some interesting research and has been getting much attention since it appeared over the weekend.
Also, Jason Furman, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisors, includes early childhood education in his recent New York Times piece on social programs that have been shown to produce positive outcomes:
A body of research on the long-term effects of high-quality preschool programs and other early-childhood interventions, like home visits by health professionals, consistently finds that they improve a range of adult outcomes, from higher earnings to reduced crime rates. Other research has found that Head Start achieves similar results.