I'm about 3/4 the way through Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers, which I will be teaching in my College Composition I classes next year.
In a chapter on how immigrants develop legacies and raise such successful children, Gladwell notes how most first generation immigrants began by working in sweatshops or fruit stands or doing any type of menial back-breaking work.
But then through being smart, ambitious, and hard working, they build a foundation for future generation. Gladwell, in fact, cites one study that looks at the rise of immigrant families.
Almost without exception it chronicles how first generation immigrants work menial jobs until they save or learn the skills necessary to open their own businesses.
The second generation takes over that business and, again, through being smart, ambitious, and hard working, the second generation builds that small business into a larger business.
The third generation bears the real fruit of the second generation as they go on into the "professional" fields - doctors, pharmacists, lawyers, and so on.
That got me thinking a couple different things.
First, why are so many Americans consider so lazy and entitled today? Have they lost - as Brian Buffini calls it - the immigrant mindset?
I don't know.
Second, will the traits of being smart, ambitious, and hardworking ever steer you wrong? In fact, I am willing to be that you don't even need all three of those traits. I think if you have just two, you're set for success.
Why don't we focus on developing those traits in our students rather than being obsessed with standards and high stakes tests, which - judging by the mass of students that are graduating our schools now - are not smart, ambitious, nor hard working?