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The "Secrets" of High Achievers

What are the "secrets" of high achieving students?

The book, Top of the Class: How Asian Parents Raise High Achievers—and How You Can Too, presents some intriguing statistics.  For example, it is simply coincidence that while Asians comprise about 4% of this country’s population, they account for about 20% of enrollment in Ivy League Colleges?  Why do Asian Americans earn about $10,000 more annually than non-Asians?  

Theauthors of this book, two Korean-American sisters, present some possible
answers to these and other questions.  They maintain that these statistics do not indicate that Asians are more intelligent than others. Rather, they embrace a different work ethic.  The authors share a number of the “secret techniques” that Asian parents employ to support their children’s academic success.  Their suggestions involve the commitment of time and effort rather than financial output, so most people can adopt the strategies.


Foremost on their list is the importance of instilling a love of learning and education. But instead of simply paying lip service to this concept, parents must demonstrate that they are serious about their own learning.  They should model this love for learning in a variety of ways.  In addition to participating in enriching
experiences such as visiting museums and libraries, parents need to display a
desire for their own personal growth. Parents who demonstrate enthusiasm in their careers and seek personal development serve as excellent role models for their children.  Even parents who are unhappy in their employment can model desired behavior to their offspring.  They can seek opportunities for growth
outside the workplace, or they can attempt to introduce their children to
adults who do demonstrate fulfillment in their careers. 

Another “secret” that the authors reveal is encouraging children to learn delayed gratification, certainly a challenging endeavor in American society.  Achieving long term success in education as well as other aspects of life involves being able to understand the “big picture.”  Indulging children’s whims teaches them that acquiring material possessions is effortless.   The process of having to earn something requires effort that can result in greater appreciation.   Some sacrifices, whether material or abstract, are worth the delayed reward and
provide added appreciation.

Furthermore, children should clearly understand their roles as students.  Just as adults have responsibilities in their roles as parents and employees, children have responsibilities in their primary roles as students.  Parents who demonstrate respect for their children’s teachers will have children who model this behavior.  Parents who understand their partnership with their children’s teachers will reinforce the learning that takes places within the classroom.  For it is parents, after all, who are ultimately responsible for their children’s education.  Setting aside time every day to discuss, review and enrich school lessons demonstrates how important parents feel education is.   They should also manage their children’s time after school so that recreation and athletics are balanced with learning. 

The ultimate lesson that the authors present is that parents, regardless of race or ethnicity, can help their children become high achievers.  Those who firmly believe that their children are their highest priority will demonstrate behaviors that confirm that belief. 

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Flowers August 13, 2012 at 03:23 PM
So if high achievers come from homes where education is valued, encouraged and rewarded what does this say about East Haven and its generally poor student performance?
Laura I. Maniglia August 13, 2012 at 03:38 PM
Parents are the child's first and most important teachers. Taking an active interest in a child's education is a parent's duty and responsibility.
Bill Fasula August 16, 2012 at 10:38 AM
I have often heard comments that so and so is just smart, when in fact, they put in many more hours of study. It reminds me of a something said by the golfer Gary Player. He hit a shot very close to the pin and someone said that was a lucky shot, and Player said, yes and the more I practice the luckier I get.
Laura I. Maniglia August 16, 2012 at 12:08 PM
Yes, everything takes practice: academics, music, athletics. The "10,000 hours" rule appears to apply. The commonality for Yo Yo Ma, Michael Jordan, and other "gifted" individuals is the opportunity and abiity to practice MANY hours to hone their crafts.
Flowers August 16, 2012 at 12:18 PM
In Lake Wobegon all the children are above average.
Beth Crowley August 17, 2012 at 10:42 AM
One of the best books I've read on this subject is Nutureshock by Po Bronson which demonstrates through scientific research that the self-esteem movement (simply telling kids they are special and talented and creating fake achievement through an everyone wins approach) of the 80's was actually harmful to student achievement and resulted in kids giving up or resorting to cheating when the work became difficult. What they discovered was when effort rather than results was praised and encouraged then children developed the ability to persevere even if they failed sometimes. This ability the authors found is what led these kids to become successful and it applied across socioeconomic groups.
Laura I. Maniglia August 17, 2012 at 11:11 AM
I wholeheartedly agree!
Bill Keane August 18, 2012 at 10:43 PM
In other words, the investment parents make, in time and values, matters more than ethnicity or money. Well, of course it does. Hard work, attentive parenting, high expectations... They matter. They just do. Anything less is just patronizing, pandering, nonsense.

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