Giving Kids a Fair Chance

MIT Press
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A top economist weighs in on one of the most urgent questions of our times: What is the source of inequality and what is the remedy?

In Giving Kids a Fair Chance, Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman argues that the accident of birth is the greatest source of inequality in America today. Children born into disadvantage are, by the time they start kindergarten, already at risk of dropping out of school, teen pregnancy, crime, and a lifetime of low-wage work. This is bad for all those born into disadvantage and bad for American society.

Current social and education policies directed toward children focus on improving cognition, yet success in life requires more than smarts. Heckman calls for a refocus of social policy toward early childhood interventions designed to enhance both cognitive abilities and such non-cognitive skills as confidence and perseverance. This new focus on preschool intervention would emphasize improving the early environments of disadvantaged children and increasing the quality of parenting while respecting the primacy of the family and America's cultural diversity.

Heckman shows that acting early has much greater positive economic and social impact than later interventions—which range from reduced pupil-teacher ratios to adult literacy programs to expenditures on police—that draw the most attention in the public policy debate. At a time when state and local budgets for early interventions are being cut, Heckman issues an urgent call for action and offers some practical steps for how to design and pay for new programs.

The debate that follows delves deeply into some of the most fraught questions of our time: the sources of inequality, the role of schools in solving social problems, and how to invest public resources most effectively. Mike Rose, Geoffrey Canada, Charles Murray, Carol Dweck, Annette Lareau, and other prominent experts participate.

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About the author

James J. Heckman is the Henry Schultz Distinguished Service Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago. He was a recipient of the Nobel Prize for Economic Sciences in 2000. He is the coauthor (with Alan B. Krueger) of Inequality in America: What Role for Human Capital Policies? (MIT Press).

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Additional Information

Publisher
MIT Press
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Published on
Mar 22, 2013
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Pages
148
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ISBN
9780262314374
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Education
Business & Economics / General
Education / Educational Policy & Reform / General
Education / Inclusive Education
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Achievement tests play an important role in modern societies. They are used to evaluate schools, to assign students to tracks within schools, and to identify weaknesses in student knowledge. The GED is an achievement test used to grant the status of high school graduate to anyone who passes it. GED recipients currently account for 12 percent of all high school credentials issued each year in the United States. But do achievement tests predict success in life?

The Myth of Achievement Tests shows that achievement tests like the GED fail to measure important life skills. James J. Heckman, John Eric Humphries, Tim Kautz, and a group of scholars offer an in-depth exploration of how the GED came to be used throughout the United States and why our reliance on it is dangerous. Drawing on decades of research, the authors show that, while GED recipients score as well on achievement tests as high school graduates who do not enroll in college, high school graduates vastly outperform GED recipients in terms of their earnings, employment opportunities, educational attainment, and health. The authors show that the differences in success between GED recipients and high school graduates are driven by character skills. Achievement tests like the GED do not adequately capture character skills like conscientiousness, perseverance, sociability, and curiosity. These skills are important in predicting a variety of life outcomes. They can be measured, and they can be taught.

Using the GED as a case study, the authors explore what achievement tests miss and show the dangers of an educational system based on them. They call for a return to an emphasis on character in our schools, our systems of accountability, and our national dialogue.

Contributors
Eric Grodsky, University of Wisconsin–Madison
Andrew Halpern-Manners, Indiana University Bloomington
Paul A. LaFontaine, Federal Communications Commission
Janice H. Laurence, Temple University
Lois M. Quinn, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee
Pedro L. Rodríguez, Institute of Advanced Studies in Administration
John Robert Warren, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
Eric Bischoff has been called pro wrestling's most hated man. He's been booed, reviled, and burned in effigy. Fans have hurled everything from beer bottles to fists at him. Industry critics have spewed a tremendous amount of venom about his spectacular rise and stupendous crash at World Championship Wrestling. But even today, Eric Bischoff's revolutionary influence on the pro wrestling industry can be seen on every television show and at every live event.

Bischoff has kept quiet while industry "pundits" and other know-it-alls pontificated about what happened during the infamous Monday Night Wars. Basing their accounts on third- and fourth-hand rumors and innuendo, the so-called experts got many more things wrong than right. Now, in Controversy Creates Cash, Bischoff tells what really happened.

Beginning with his days as a salesman for Verne Gagne's American Wrestling Association, Bischoff takes readers behind the scenes of wrestling, writing about the inner workings of the business in a way never before revealed. He demonstrates how controversy helped both WCW and WWE. Eric gives the real numbers behind WCW's red ink -- far lower than reported -- and talks about how Turner Broadcasting's merger with Time Warner, and then Time Warner's merger with AOL, devastated not only WCW but many creative and entrepreneurial businesses within the conglomerate. Bischoff has surprisingly kind words for old rivals like Vince McMahon, but pulls no punches with friends and enemies alike.

Among his revelations: How teaming with Mickey Mouse turned WCW into a national brand. Why Hulk Hogan came to WCW. Why he fired Jesse Ventura for sleeping on the job. Why Steve Austin didn't deserve another contract at WCW, and how Bischoff's canning him was the best thing that ever happened to Austin. How Ted Turner decided WCW should go head-to-head against Raw on Monday nights. How Nitro revolutionized wrestling. Where the New World Order really began. How corporate politics killed WCW. And how he found his inner heel and learned to love being the guy everyone loves to despise.

Bischoff brings a surprisingly personal touch to the story, detailing his rough-and-tumble childhood in Detroit, talking about his family and the things he did to cope with the stress of the high-octane media business. Now a successful entertainment producer as well as a wrestling personality, Bischoff tells how he found contentment after being unceremoniously "sent home" from WCW.

Love him or hate him, readers will never look at a pro wrestling show quite the same way after reading Bischoff's story in Controversy Creates Cash.
An essential, galvanizing narrative about making a difference here and abroad—a road map to becoming the most effective global citizens we can be.

In their number one New York Times best seller Half the Sky, husband-and-wife team Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn brought to light struggles faced by women and girls around the globe, and showcased individuals and institu­tions working to address oppression and expand opportunity. A Path Appears is even more ambi­tious in scale: nothing less than a sweeping tap­estry of people who are making the world a better place and a guide to the ways that we can do the same—whether with a donation of $5 or $5 mil­lion, with our time, by capitalizing on our skills as individuals, or by using the resources of our businesses.

With scrupulous research and on-the-ground reporting, the authors assay the art and science of giving, identify successful local and global initia­tives, and share astonishing stories from the front lines of social progress. We see the compelling, in­spiring truth of how real people have changed the world, upending the idea that one person can’t make a difference.

We meet people like Dr. Gary Slutkin, who devel­oped his landmark Cure Violence program to combat inner-city conflicts in the United States by applying principles of epidemiology; Lester Strong, who left a career as a high-powered television anchor to run an organization bringing in older Americans to tu­tor students in public schools across the country; MIT development economist Esther Duflo, whose pioneering studies of aid effectiveness have revealed new truths about, among other things, the power of hope; and Jessica Posner and Kennedy Odede, who are transforming Kenya’s most notorious slum by ex­panding educational opportunities for girls.

A Path Appears offers practical, results-driven advice on how best each of us can give and reveals the lasting benefits we gain in return. Kristof and WuDunn know better than most how many urgent challenges communities around the world face to­day. Here they offer a timely beacon of hope for our collective future.
How do other countries create “smarter” kids? What is it like to be a child in the world’s new education superpowers? The Smartest Kids in the World “gets well beneath the glossy surfaces of these foreign cultures and manages to make our own culture look newly strange....The question is whether the startling perspective provided by this masterly book can also generate the will to make changes” (The New York Times Book Review).

In a handful of nations, virtually all children are learning to make complex arguments and solve problems they’ve never seen before. They are learning to think, in other words, and to thrive in the modern economy. Inspired to find answers for our own children, author and Time magazine journalist Amanda Ripley follows three Americans embed­ded in these countries for one year. Kim, fifteen, raises $10,000 so she can move from Oklahoma to Finland; Eric, eighteen, trades his high-achieving Minnesota suburb for a booming city in South Korea; and Tom, seventeen, leaves a historic Pennsylvania village for Poland.

Through these young informants, Ripley meets battle-scarred reformers, sleep-deprived zombie students, and a teacher who earns $4 million a year. Their stories, along with groundbreaking research into learning in other cultures, reveal a pattern of startling transformation: none of these countries had many “smart” kids a few decades ago. Things had changed. Teaching had become more rigorous; parents had focused on things that mattered; and children had bought into the promise of education.
With four simple truths as his framework, Charles Murray, the bestselling coauthor of The Bell Curve, sweeps away the hypocrisy, wishful thinking, and upside-down priorities that grip America’s educational establishment.

Ability varies. Children differ in their ability to learn academic material. Doing our best for every child requires, above all else, that we embrace that simplest of truths. America’s educational system does its best to ignore it.

Half of the children are below average. Many children cannot learn more than rudimentary reading and math. Real Education reviews what we know about the limits of what schools can do and the results of four decades of policies that require schools to divert huge resources to unattainable goals.

Too many people are going to college. Almost everyone should get training beyond high school, but the number of students who want, need, or can profit from four years of residential education at the college level is a fraction of the number of young people who are struggling to get a degree. We have set up a standard known as the BA, stripped it of its traditional content, and made it an artificial job qualification. Then we stigmatize everyone who doesn’t get one. For most of America’s young people, today’s college system is a punishing anachronism.

America’s future depends on how we educate the academically gifted. An elite already runs the country, whether we like it or not. Since everything we watch, hear, and read is produced by that elite, and since every business and government department is run by that elite, it is time to start thinking about the kind of education needed by the young people who will run the country. The task is not to give them more advanced technical training, but to give them an education that will make them into wiser adults; not to pamper them, but to hold their feet to the fire.

The good news is that change is not only possible but already happening. Real Education describes the technological and economic trends that are creating options for parents who want the right education for their children, teachers who want to be free to teach again, and young people who want to find something they love doing and learn how to do it well. These are the people for whom Real Education was written. It is they, not the politicians or the educational establishment, who will bring American schools back to reality.

Twenty-four years ago, Charles Murray’s Losing Ground changed the way the nation thought about welfare. Real Education is about to do the same thing for America’s schools.


From the Hardcover edition.
“The nation needs to be confronted with the crime that we’re committing and the promises we are betraying. This is a book about betrayal of the young, who have no power to defend themselves. It is not intended to make readers comfortable.”

Over the past several years, Jonathan Kozol has visited nearly 60 public schools. Virtually everywhere, he finds that conditions have grown worse for inner-city children in the 15 years since federal courts began dismantling the landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education. First, a state of nearly absolute apartheid now prevails in thousands of our schools. The segregation of black children has reverted to a level that the nation has not seen since 1968. Few of the students in these schools know white children any longer. Second, a protomilitary form of discipline has now emerged, modeled on stick-and-carrot methods of behavioral control traditionally used in prisons but targeted exclusively at black and Hispanic children. And third, as high-stakes testing takes on pathological and punitive dimensions, liberal education in our inner-city schools has been increasingly replaced by culturally barren and robotic methods of instruction that would be rejected out of hand by schools that serve the mainstream of society.

Filled with the passionate voices of children and their teachers and some of the most revered and trusted leaders in the black community, The Shame of the Nation is a triumph of firsthand reporting that pays tribute to those undefeated educators who persist against the odds, but directly challenges the chilling practices now being forced upon our urban systems by the Bush administration. In their place, Kozol offers a humane, dramatic challenge to our nation to fulfill at last the promise made some 50 years ago to all our youngest citizens.


From The Shame of the Nation

“I went to Washington to challenge the soft bigotry of low expectations,” the president said in his campaign for reelection in September 2004. “It’s working. It’s making a difference.” It is one of those deadly lies, which, by sheer repetition, is at length accepted by large numbers of Americans as, perhaps, a rough approximation of the truth. But it is not the truth, and it is not an innocent misstatement of the facts. It is a devious appeasement of the heartache of the parents of the poor and, if it is not forcefully resisted and denounced, it is going to lead our nation even further in a perilous direction.


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From the Hardcover edition.
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