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Paul Tough

Keynote Speaker

In his book How Children Succeed—which spent over a year on The New York Times bestseller list—education speaker Paul Tough challenged the belief that intelligence, endlessly measured by test scores, is the sole predictor of how well a child will do in school and in life. In his follow-up, Helping Children Succeed: What Works and Why, Tough offers a practical guidebook for educators, parents, and community groups dedicated to improving the lives of children growing up in adversity, containing all-new strategies based in the emerging science of success. In the talks drawn from his research, Tough ushers in a tidal change in thinking with his argument that curiosity, conscientiousness, optimism, self-control, and grit are better indicators of success than IQ. With the soon-to-be-released The Years That Matter Most, Tough introduces the innovative new ideas—proposed by psychologists, sociologists, and economists—on how to address the problem of discrepant graduation rates, including a nationwide effort to better identify and recruit high-achieving low-income students to highly selective colleges. Tough identifies a phenomenon in our culture that he calls the “adversity gap”: Some kids, especially those growing up in poverty, simply have too much adversity in their lives, and others, especially those growing up in affluence, actually experience too little. Tough says that children develop character strengths when they persevere through adversity. And it’s our job – the adults in their homes and their schools and their communities – to give them the support and guidance they need to manage and grow from those setbacks and disappointments. Tough is also the author of Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America, which chronicled the inspiring story of the Harlem Children’s Zone. He is a contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine, where he has written cover articles about first-generation college students, character education, and OxyContin addiction in Appalachia, among other topics. He has also contributed stories to This American Life, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Esquire, and GQ.