Two sentences on page 5 of Dr. Levine's book provide a fair summation of his ideas.
"In all these instances, years of schooling and parenting have entirely missed that elusive target, work-life readiness. Our graduates may well lack the practical skills, the habits, the behaviors, the real-world insights, and the frames of mind pivotal for career startup."
Society as a whole, is not doing what it should for our kids, namely getting them ready for the rest of their lives.
At 300 plus pages of small print this book took an effort to get through. The content was occasionally heavy and his use of graphics did little to add to my understanding of the text. With that said, the content was refreshing and hard hitting. Several of the ideas and a few of the practical suggestions for raising children were new to me. Dr. Levine takes an aggressive approach to how parent's are raising their kids as well as how schools and teachers are educating them.
Related to teaching, he says, "In truth, kid's minds are strikingly diverse. To treat and to teach them all the same is to treat and teach them unequally." He challenges the focus on memorization in schools. Multiple choice questions rarely occur outside of academia. Comprehension and application of what is learned is much more important than simply regurgitating the facts. He points out that almost all challenges in life are "open book tests" and impressive memory is rarely a job requirement.
He then transitions into the parent's responsibilities with, "I have come to believe that schools are mainly responsible for teaching kids how to learn and that parents should take on the assignment of teaching them how to work." Parents (and teachers as well) can start on this by praising the hard work that went into studying for the science test rather than praising the A on the report card. Acting as a role model is also important.
His section on Mind Debts was particularly interesting as I thought it dealt with a topic similar to my article on strengths, Focus on the strengths and "critical" weaknesses, forget the rest. A Mind Debt is a lack of skill or ability in a basic physical or mental function that when ignored as a child and teen can come back to hinder the adult's life. The example (among others) given was "verbal communication problems". This particular Mind Debt could lead to "Trouble selling products, ideas, plans; difficulty relating to others; poor understanding of instructions (oral and written)". In later sections of the book he goes into some detail on how we might focus on eliminating these debts or guiding our kids toward other more suitable interests.
Insight or inner direction is one of the 4 growth processes discussed. A child or teenager needs to start identifying who they are and where their strengths lie. A report card is used as an opportunity for the parent to point out that perhaps young Ralph would be successful in a future where math is important since he has consistently done well in that subject (as opposed to others).
A section on pattern recognition also struck home with me. How often have you as a parent felt frustration or anger at your son or daughter because they repeated the same mistake or misbehaved in the same way they have done a hundred times before? Dr. Levine suggests that the child could keep a notebook of rules to help with recognizing these patterns thus avoiding the negative ones and repeating the positive ones. I am thinking of starting one for my son with rule #1 being, "When Dad tells me to do something I should do it right away."
I recommend this book but with one caveat. If you do not have the time to read it carefully you will miss a lot. There were a few times while trying to read on the train when I would realize that I had gone through several pages and could not remember anything I had just read. It is a book that requires concentration and time to get through.