Assembly Series features educational advocate Paul Tough on ‘How Children Succeed’

Veteran journalist and educational reform advocate Paul Tough is alarmed by failing schools and by the system that allows this condition to exist.

Tough (Credit: Mary McIlvaine)

Through his exposés — such as The New York Times Magazine cover piece “Can Character Be Taught?” and his award-winning book on Geoffrey Canada’s “cradle-to-community” approach, Whatever It Takes — Tough wants to share what he has learned about pioneering approaches to education that emphasize character strength and values as well as the basics.
Tough will discuss his new book, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 11, at Washington University in St. Louis. The talk, which is free and open to the public, takes place in the Women’s Building Lounge on the Danforth Campus.

The talk is co-hosted by KIPP Inspire Academy St. Louis and Washington University’s Brown School Policy Forum, Department of Education and Gephardt Institute for Public Service.
Tough argues for a radical shift away from focusing solely on subject test scores or IQ numbers, toward an innovative approach that helps children acquire strong inner resources such as resiliency, self-control, empathy and curiosity — personal traits necessary to succeed in any situation life hands them.

He highlights examples of organizations that are changing the way people think about how best to steer children toward success, like KIPP, the Knowledge Is Power Program. With 125 public charter schools nationwide, including KIPP Inspire Academy in St. Louis, KIPP endorses the idea that character is key to helping students from underserved backgrounds earn college degrees.
“Character is molded by the environment in which we grow up,” Tough writes. “It can be taught, not just by parents, but by schools, coaches and mentors as well. Which means we all have a responsibility to help kids develop their character – as well as their math skills.”
“We are thrilled to have Paul join us at KIPP St. Louis to underscore the importance of blending academic rigor and character development to ensure all students climb the mountain to and through college,” says Kelly Garrett, executive director, KIPP St. Louis.
After moving from his native Canada to the United States, Tough began writing for Harper’s Magazine; since then, his work has appeared in many national publications. In addition to writing, he produced and edited the popular radio program, “This American Life,” for several years.
A book signing and reception will follow Tough’s talk.

For information and directions, visit or call 314-935-4620. For information on KIPP Inspire Academy, visit or call 314-221-5723.