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Psychologist is source of new take on learning

To the editor:

I was pleased to see the Nov. 15 front-page article about Amherst Regional Middle School’s student “persistence over intelligence” program.

I think it is important to give credit where credit is due. The primary research that has resulted in our understanding of the importance of the “growth mind set” as opposed to the “fixed mind set” in terms of student intelligence was done by the social psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck, now located at Stanford University in California. It seems the journalist, Paul Tough, may have done a great job of pulling together the existing research on these issues. But let’s be clear that he is not the originator of these breakthroughs, just the popular press trumpeter of them.

One other quibble with Tough: His example of KIPP school success in motivating their students to pursue college due to their “character education” program neglects to mention the fact that KIPP schools routinely purge their rolls of students who are struggling. So, when KIPP manages to rid its schools of the harder-to-teach students, their effectiveness is bound to appear greater, regardless of the curriculum or pedagogy.

Florence R. Sullivan


Florence R. Sullivan holds a Ph.D. from the School of Education at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

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