Of Note: For Which We are Preparing

Submitted By:
Elizabeth Morley, Kobe Shinwa University, Japan

The Years That Really Matter: How College Makes or Breaks Us by Paul Tough
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, September 10, 2019

In The Years That Really Matter: How College Makes or Breaks Us, author Paul Tough augments his consistently sharp commentary on mobility, opportunity, and equity—this time with a focus on higher education. Tough's book asks what it takes to transition from one economic class to another. More precisely, he shines a brilliant light on the fact that, while we assume higher education is a major route for anyone to alter the conditions of life, that path is actually filled with obstacles that the colleges themselves control and have lower-than-the-needed motivation to change. By effectively combining research with stories of high-achieving students from economically-challenged families, Tough illustrates that while higher education has the potential to be a powerful driver for lifting students from poverty to the middle class, the opposite is often true—it instead reinforces a rigid social hierarchy that prevents overcoming birth circumstances. He tackles the SAT, "elite" colleges' dependence on admitting rich and not just high-scoring students, and admissions decisions that favor affluence. There are lessons here for our schools, both in terms of our own decisions and how to identify, call out, and resist the elitism of colleges for which we are preparing our students.

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