The Tipping Point, part 2

        Last week, I referred to the concept in Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point that influential people can make tremendous changes by the way that they approach problems.

        This week, I refer to specific families that have not only made changes in their children’s lives, but have done so against all odds.

        I continue to be impressed by the story of Cedric Jennings, as chronicled in the book A Hope in the Unseen, by Ron Suskind. Cedric grew up in the notoriously impoverished area of Southeast Washington, DC. Two things, though, distinguished him from his high school peers: the drive that his mother transmitted to him and the internalized desire that he wanted to succeed in school and then in life beyond school.

        The story in the book takes us from Cedric’s junior year in high school through his freshman year at Brown University. (Despite the difficulties he experienced as being an outsider at Brown, he graduated with the Class of 2000.)

        Another story was recently in the news: the Chavez family of Albuquerque, NM had such a focused intent toward their children’s education that they were able to send all five children not only to the best private high school in town, but onward -- all five of them -- to Harvard University. In addition to that education, three of the Chavez children have achieved graduate degrees at Stanford.

        These stories are particularly inspiring to me because the families belong to minority groups that have been tremendously disenfranchised in our society. They have beaten the odds against them by setting goals, making sacrifices, and working together.

        There are lessons that all families can learn from these stories:

  • Parents are responsible for taking a leadership role and setting the tone for goals to be achieved by family members.
  • The entire family must focus on each child’s education by making it a priority in their lives.
  • Sacrifices of short-term material possessions will pay off in long-term success for the children.
  • Your socioeconomic status and family heritage are barriers to your success only if you permit them to be.
This column has been incorporated and expanded in Teach Your Children Well: A Teacher’s  Advice for Parents.

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