Parent/Educator Resources
Parent/Educator Resources
Books About Behavior, Emotions, and Psychology
Book Reviewed: Achor, Shawn. (2013). Before Happiness: The 5 Hidden Keys to Achieving Success, Spreading Happiness, and Sustaining Positive Change. New York: Random House.

Why should parents read this book? This is one of those books you begin to read and then set down occasionally, for the purpose of reflecting on your own personal life and how it relates to what Achor is writing. It is also a book about everything you wish your child will be. (Note: It will be essentially impossible to read this book without pausing to reflect on where you have been in life, where you are going, where your child has been in life and where your child will be going.)

The crux of Achor’s belief—which is backed by a prodigious volume of research, is that we must use our intellectual intelligence, emotional intelligence, and social intelligence to reach our true intelligence. Use the five skills listed in this book to constantly teach your child the most important life lessons they will ever learn. They are—and they are important: choosing the most valuable reality, mapping your success route, finding success accelerants, boosting your positive signals by eliminating the negative noise, and transferring your positive reality to others.

Why should teachers read this book? This is one of the better self help “pop” psychology books on the market and yes—it can also help you become a better teacher and human being. Educators who are wondering about their purpose or direction in life will especially find Achor’s words to be both useful and comforting. After all, the reality of what we experience each day is mostly made up inside our heads. And if this is true, how do we think we are projecting ourselves to our students? Do we appear to our students as depressed, unexcited adults who live in drudgery from year to year, or do we appear excited and eager to unravel the mysteries of each day.

Overall evaluation of the book: Some will be distressed at what they perceive to be another “pop psychology” book but Achor has the data and research to back it up. There is a reason why Shawn Achor’s books sell very well. Read this and you will know why. Five Stars ★★★★★

Book Reviewed: Achor, Shawn. (2010). The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology that Fuel Success and Performance. New York: Crown Publishing Group.

Why should parents read this book? If you think the key to your child’s future success lies in a stellar grade point average and a sky high intelligence quotient, you might be profoundly mistaken. While your child’s grade point average and intelligence quotient may come into play occasionally, what will really matter will be…drum roll…their level of happiness. This is stunning news to many individuals.

Achor shows us that the traditional key to happiness is all wrong. The American myth is that by working hard we will find success in life which will lead to happiness. Achor says we have it all backwards. Everything—hard work and success come via happiness. Fortunately, Achor tells us how we can use seven simple principals to gain control of our lives or to help your child stay in control of theirs. The seven principles are: Happiness gives your brain the competitive edge, change your performance by changing your mindset, training your brain to capitalize on possibility, capitalizing on the downs to build upward momentum, how limiting your focus to small manageable goals can expand your sphere of power, use 20 seconds of effort to break habits and make new ones, and why social support is your single greatest asset.

Why should teachers read this book? Stuff like what Achor writes about is why schools should teach and assess more than academics. The pool of research is vast that many highly academic and smart people aren’t successful because—well—they aren’t happy. It’s almost impossible to be successful and unhappy. This may seem anathema to Americans, who are drilled early in their school years that hard work leads to success which then leads to happiness.

According to Achor, we don’t have the formula down correctly. It is happiness which leads to hard work and success. Fortunately, Achor goes into lots of details as to how we can achieve the desired state of being happy in our lives as we work hard in our success. Much of what he writes about can be taught to students in school, if they have a school or teacher willing and daring.

Overall evaluation of the book: This is why you should never judge your local school by their state testing scores. Testing scores don’t equate to success and happiness and are not the most important things to measure. The stuff found in Achor’s book is what is really important and should be measured. Five Stars ★★★★★

Book Reviewed: Brafman, Ori, and Rom Brafman. (2008). Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior. New York: Random House.

Why should parents read this book? Much of what parenting is about can be summed up in this sentence; we try to teach our children to trade their irrational behavior for rational behavior. This book is all about how to spot irrational behavior in adults. Of course, all adult irrational behavior begins as irrational behavior they first learned as a child.

The value of this book is to first arm yourself with an understanding of spotting and then disarming irrational behavior. You can’t teach your child to be rational if you, yourself, are not rational. Make sense, yes?

Brafman and Brafman cover all sorts of irrational behaviors—from going to great lengths to avert losses, to our blindness in detecting evidence which doesn’t support our position, to chasing loss with more loss, and to our inability and inflexibility in changing our opinion of an individual once we have quickly made up our mind.

Why should teachers read this book? This book is all about what great teachers do in their classrooms all the time. Great teachers train their students to question the evidence, search for patterns, make good decisions, and change viewpoints when contradictory evidence arrives on the scene.

Teachers will find prominent examples of irrational behavior in this book, such as the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster at lift-off. The type of thinking which preceded the decision to not delay the launch is well documented, but it is an example which can be used as a teachable example across many subject disciplines. As a bonus, you will no doubt be delighted to discover connections between the irrational behavior described by the authors and that perhaps found in your local school administrator, superintendent, or school board.

Overall evaluation of the book: An interesting and readable look at how decisions can be irrational, even when they are claimed to be the end product of a lengthy, intellectual debate. Five Stars ★★★★★

Book Reviewed: Cain, Susan. (2012). Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. New York: Broadway Paperbacks.

Why should parents read this book? This is a must read if you have an introverted child or if you are worried your child will turn out to be “normal” because of some introverted tendencies they may have. Introverts—those who live in the inner world of thoughts and feelings and need to recharge their batteries by being alone—get a bad rap by many people, even though up to half of all Americans are introverts. Susan will help dispel your fears and reassure you that your child will turn out just fine, even if they aren’t the extroverted business leader you hoped they would be. She will also give you solid ideas, such as providing “down time,” a quiet space for your introverted child, and how to help them appropriately interact with larger groups of kids and adults.

What are some of her recommendations? For starters, stop telling everyone your introverted child is “shy,” because the word “shy” carries negative connotations in an American culture which is heavily focused on the glories of extroversion. Understand that your child’s contributions will be different, but not less valuable, than their extroverted sibling or neighbor down the street. Constantly reassure your introverted child there is nothing wrong with them. Help them navigate social encounters which they may find stressful. If you have an extroverted child, recognize that blind spots come with extroversion tendencies—such as the tendency to not think problems through and to leap to conclusions while attempting to sway everyone toward your inaccurate way of thinking. There is no actual evidence that those who like to talk, as most extroverts do, are any better at generating ideas than introverts.

Why should teachers read this book? This work is a plea for the quiet and reserved kids in your classroom. Help them out by controlling the extroverted children. Don’t let the same kids constantly answer the questions in class—these are most likely the extroverted kids. Use your
“wait time” wisely and make sure the kids who don’t have their hand up within a millisecond of you asking questions, are not the ones you constantly call on for the answers. Let the quiet kids answer questions. In addition, stop thinking there is something wrong with the shy kids in your classroom. There is nothing wrong with them. They have skills and strengths which your gregarious kids don’t have. Help the quiet kids use their strengths while also helping them improve the skills which need strengthening. Famous introverts who have found their way into our history books include Sir Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, George Orwell, Dr. Seuss, Charles Schulz, Warren Buffet, Ghandi, and Rosa Parks.

 Overall evaluation of the book: Whether you have an introverted or extroverted child, this book is one of the best available on a topic few of us ever think about. Five Stars ★★★★★

Book Reviewed: Dweck, Carol, S. (2006). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success: How We Can Learn to Fulfill Our Potential. New York: Ballantine Books.

Why should parents read this book? This is a famous book and its ideas have spread everywhere. The basic premise of Mindset is that people who believe they are innately talented and smart do not live up to anywhere near their potential and people who believe they are responsible for working hard and making themselves more talented and smarter will far exceed what many pundits would consider their potential to be. In other words, thinking and believing you are talented and smart actually causes you to display less talent and fewer smarts. Thinking and believing you need to work hard to improve your talents and smarts will cause you to exponentially become more talented and smart.

The research behind this book is vast and deep. While we have long known that how we perceive ourselves becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, until Dweck came along and put a catchy phrase to it—the growth mindset—it really hadn’t gathered much traction in a society littered with stories of talented and smart people succeeding only because they were apparently talented and smart. Talent and smartness were inborn traits and not something acquired during a lifetime. Instilling a growth mindset into your middle school child might be the most important gift you can give them.

Why should teachers read this book? Educators will resonate with the ideas presented in this book because many classrooms are filled with lazy, but bright and talented students, who barely have to lift a finger to get on the ‘A’ honor roll. Almost nothing drives teachers crazier than students who have all the talent and ability in the world and then waste it by doing nothing. This drives teachers crazy because they also have extremely hard-working students who struggle just to make the ‘B’ honor roll. It doesn’t seem fair that the academic riches can go to lazy and indifferent students while other students, not so fortunate as to be wired with a genetically endowed, highly functioning brain, have to work and claw for every point in the class.

In the long run, the harder working and persistent student will far exceed the lazy and bright student, who acts as though they are a gift from heaven. Eventually it will be the hard working student—the one with the growth mindset—who will own the factory or lead the department, while the bright but unmotivated student will be one of their employees. Spend lots of time in your classroom drilling the growth mindset into your students. It may be more important than the curriculum you are writing.

Overall evaluation of the book: This is one of the best books on the importance of perseverance you will read all year. Now comes the hard part—instilling the growth mindset into your child or class. Five Stars ★★★★★

Book Reviewed: Goleman, Daniel. (2005). Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More than IQ. New York: Bantam Books.

Why should parents read this book? This was a landmark publication with the first edition in 1995. It was at this point in time that people began to think seriously about the importance of emotional intelligence as being a more significant factor than the more famous general intelligence quotient. Goleman was the first author to make a big splash on this topic.

Parents should pay attention to this book because, while their child’s technical skills will be what get them hired when they enter the adult workforce, it will be their lack of emotional intelligence which will get them fired. (Hopefully, however, this will not be the case.) Without a doubt, your child’s level of emotional intelligence will be more responsible for helping them get what they want out of life, than their general intelligence quotient.

We have been brainwashed to believe that SAT scores, grade point averages, and intelligence quotients are what accounts for whether or not kids will be successful in life. As it turns out, none of these are more predictive of an individual’s success, than their emotional intelligence. This means you should spend time with your middle school child reinforcing the value of what constitutes their emotional intelligence, which is partly comprised of—their being self-aware, being able to express and manage their feelings, their ability to delay gratification, and how they handle their stress and anxiety levels.

Why should teachers read this book? Your students’ ability to manage their emotions and use “people skills” appropriately and in the right context will matter as much as their intelligence quotient. Take the time in your classroom to teach social skills. As misbehavior erupts, sit down the child who has flaunted the rules and talk with them about better uses of their behavior and how to engage their decision-making skills. Educate them on alternative ways of perceiving and viewing situations. Help them understand they had choices and options they probably hadn’t considered.

Teachers who spend considerable amounts of time educating students on social skills during those “teachable moments,” have fewer discipline problems than teachers who don’t spend time working the emotional intelligence quotient factors in with their students. If this doesn’t persuade and motivate you to broach social skills and emotional intelligence with your students, then you are probably not the teacher many parents will want instructing their child.

Overall evaluation of the book: A classic on why social skills and emotional control is important for both adults and kids. Five Stars ★★★★★

Book Reviewed: Kahneman, Daniel. (2011). Thinking Fast and Slow. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Why should parents read this book? According to Kahneman, we can improve our ability to identify and understand our errors of choice and judgment if we are aware of our own biases of intuition. And we have lots of biases in our intuition. If we are aware of our own biases of intuition, and accept the fact that luck will often play a part in our lives, then it will be easier for us to identify where a small change in the story line would have turned things around, perhaps even changing a remarkable achievement into a mediocre event or a mundane situation into a sterling accomplishment. The gist of Kahneman’s book is that intuition is not a magical force in the universe and that we can improve our ability to recognize when our intuition is likely to lead us astray and when it is likely to actually be correct. Much of Kahneman’s argument lies in his underlying fundamental principal that humans think in terms of System 1 and System 2, or fast and slow thinking, and that we should try to reduce the number of errors we make using either system.

At times, this can be a difficult book to read because some of the concepts being discussed are nowhere near some middle school children’s level of reasoning. But the concepts presented in this book are extremely important. After reading this book, try to discuss the concepts with your child, in language they can understand.

If you enjoy intellectual experiences when you are reading books and if you have often puzzled about “what makes people think this or that way?” and your reading skills are above-average, this could be the perfect book for you.

Why should teachers read this book? You will use this book in talking with your students about the ideas presented in the book. For example, an important concept for middle school students to understand is that often their first impression or instinct will be wrong. Kahneman calls this a common problem in “System 1” or Fast Thinking. Your goal will be to help your students slow down their brain and to think. Kahneman calls this “System 2” or Slow Thinking.

You should teach your students about things such as why the brain doesn’t like to think very hard, why there is no such thing as a “hot hand” in sports or life, the perils of somebody anchoring you to a certain answer, the overestimation of danger in almost all faucets of life, how the addition of more details can make the brain’s ability to solve problems even worse, how regression to the mean impacts them on a regular basis and how our minds also regularly dismiss regression to the mean. In addition, you should teach your class how we make things up to reconstruct past memories, how excessive optimistic thinking causes problems, why people overpay to avoid small risks, why avoiding really bad events is so important, and why humans really aren’t rational creatures. If you think I’m crazy for suggesting middle schoolers be taught some of these concepts, you’re underestimating what they—especially older middle school kids—can intellectually handle.

Overall evaluation of the book: While many parents and educators will find some of the concepts rather dense, the book is an outstanding summary of many of the internal psychological forces at work. Five Stars ★★★★★

Book Reviewed: McArdle, Megan. (2014). The Upside of Down: Why Failing Well is the Key to Success. New York: Penguin Group.

Why should parents read this book? McArdle ranges over a vast number of topics in this book, very much in the tradition of Malcolm Gladwell, who, like McArdle, tries to help the reader view events and happenings from a different perspective. The central point of emphasis McArdle makes is that failure is an expected and treasured occasion which, properly handled, makes the individual stronger. As a bonus, society is also better off.

McArdle discusses the immovability of the American educational system towards change, the intense strivings of parents who desperately want their child to get into a “good” college, and the necessity of entrepreneurs who form the backbone of a growing economy. In addition, she talks about sunk costs, or the reluctance of people to quit a venture because of the feeling they have invested lots of time and resources into the project, our tendency to “bend the map” and make reality conform to our expectations, the folly of unemployment benefits, and the social cost of lengthy prison sentences.

McArdle covers lots of ground in this book. She introduces topics which have political elements in them and which are bound to irritate both Democrats and Republicans alike, which means she probably has something important and good to say. This is a great book to reflect on the way many things run in our society and how decisions get made. The gist of it, as it applies to you and your middle school child, is to think through decisions and opportunities—don’t automatically use a run with the herd mentality—and work to develop the mental capacity for independent thought and action.

Why should teachers read this book: This manuscript does require a level of thinking that some other books don’t require. It is one of those books which makes you go, “hmmm, I never thought of it that way.” This book will reassure you that your teaching methods which attempt to instill independent thinking and individual and collective responsibility on the part of your students are right on track. There are also lots of examples and stories you can use in your classroom.

Overall evaluation of the book: If you are a fan of Malcolm Gladwell, you will most likely enjoy this romp through the crazy universe of how humans have made their decisions and structured entire systems on bad science and data. Four Stars ★★★★

Book Reviewed: McGonigal, Kelly. (2012). The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why it Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It. New York: Penguin Group.

Book Summary: This book is about how to develop willpower and resist the cravings which undermine many of our individual goals—whether they be to lose weight, study a world language, or improve our social skills.

McGonigal is a believer in the power of “knowing yourself” and using focused meditation sessions to pay attention to what you are thinking. In the process, her goal is to slow down the thinking in your brain, and to allow more effective solutions to control your willpower. She suggests turning inward, rather than outward in thwarting temptation because stress, not surprisingly, is a willpower killer. Here is where exercise comes in as a tool to combat stress and garner more willpower.

Not surprisingly, she advocates for emotional self-control and the importance of being around good role models to help you on your chosen goals.

Why should parents read this book: This book is about how to develop willpower and resist the cravings which undermine many of our individual goals—whether they be to lose weight, study a world language, or improve our social skills. Not surprisingly, she advocates for emotional self-control and the importance of being around good role models to help you on your chosen goals.

This is a cerebral approach to achieving self-control, which is an extremely important skill for your child to have. Middle School kids who have self-control do better on almost every social and academic platform. In fact, the ability to delay gratification and focus on reasonable goals and achieve them, may be the most important skill you can impart to your child.

In her book, McGonigal takes some unusual approaches usually not found in the self-help world. At the same time, she offers real insight into developing willpower. Use the ideas in the book to talk with your child about their goals, ambitions, and how to approach adversity.

Why Should Teachers Read this Book: Here’s a novel thought; instead about lamenting how the kids in your class can’t delay gratification and must have answers and things right now, how about if you teach them how to achieve these marvelous life skills? You’ll be happier and your kids will be happier. Not all kids know how to delay gratification and to fight temptations and do things like get their homework done while avoiding the lure of their cell phone. Teach them. Not all of life’s education occurs in the academic disciplines.

Overall evaluation of the book: A slightly intellectual and refreshing approach to solving the willpower problem. Four Stars ★★★★

Book Reviewed: Mlodinow, Leonard. (2008). The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives. New York: Random House.

Why should parents read this book? You need to read a book like this to help you realize that sometimes your child will exert great effort and fail at a task while at other times they will exert little effort and receive the accolades of success. Welcome to how the world of random success and failure really works.

This is not a book to depress you or to instill the thoughts in your child that pure luck will always carry the day. It is, however, a book which encourages you to help position both you and your child with the ammunition to continue trying even when bad things happen and to realize that in the long run, persisting in the face of obstacles is really the only way to maneuver through life.

Why should teachers read this book? Try to resist the urge to be cynical, sarcastic, and fatalistic when reading and applying the lessons in this book. Yes, successful people are sometimes no smarter than unsuccessful people. Yes, firing and replacing managers doesn’t actually work as a way to improve the system. And yes, the confirmation bias, or the tendency to make decisions and then look for data and information which supports our decision—is common among all adults. But the real gem in applying the lessons of the book rise to the proportionate level in which you proactivity use the information to improve your odds of success.

Teach your students to watch out for the confirmation bias and how to beware the psychological pitfalls of ignoring regression to the mean—or the tendency of high scores to eventually fall and low scores to eventually rise. Make your students aware that random luck sometimes does come into play but that the cure to increase your chance of luck breaking in your favor is to keep trying again and again because as the number of opportunities and failures increase, so also does the chance for success.

Overall evaluation of the book: A readable if somewhat intellectual book on statistics and probability as it relates to principles of randomness. While many of your friends will never read this book, both you and your child will have a better understanding of random events (and how to deal with them) because you have. Four Stars ★★★★

Book Reviewed: Pink, Daniel. (2009). Drive: The Surprising Truth That Motivates Us. New York: Riverhead.

Why should parents read this book? This book received lots of attention when it first came out and nothing has changed to alter the message that it delivers. The primary message for parents in Drive is that your child will need to be resourceful, find something in life that intellectually challenges them, will need to search for the right goal area in which to lead a meaningful life, and will need to work hard and be driven in their selected job occupation. Essentially, the author doesn’t waste time trying to talk you anyone into future job growth areas, but wisely focuses on the individual finding something both personally meaningful and intellectual.

For management junkies, Pink delivers a synopsis of motivational work theories, ranging from Type A and B, to Theory X and Theory Y, Frederick Taylor’s scientific management theories, and Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. If you are not familiar with these concepts, and haven’t taken management basics or educational psychology in college, some of these concept and ideas may initially make your head spin, but fortunately, Pink writes in a plain, simple-to-understand style.

Why should teachers read this book? Drive will confirm what many teachers have long suspected. In the classroom, grit and perseverance, combined with a love for the subject, will send their students into unparalleled heights of academic competence. Pink does, however, also stress the importance of setting important learning goals, having learned that not setting goals is a recipe for lower performance.

The teacher who decries the plethora of standardized testing will also find much they have in sync with Pink, who believes that a mania for testing has resulted in a narrowing of the curriculum and strangulation of creative thinking. Don’t be deceived; however, into believing Pink is a softie on work and process. He favors a model which requires lots of deliberate practice and constant critical feedback.

Overall evaluation of the book: A hodge-podge of modern management psychology served with libertine thought and a healthy serving of good old-fashioned work ethic. Four Stars ★★★★

Book Reviewed: Robbins, Anthony. (1991). Awaken the Giant Within. New York: Summit Books.

Why should parents read this book? If you don’t think that motivational speakers, teachers, and writers are important to your middle school child, then you are dead wrong. It is precisely because some adults have the uncanny power to motivate and persuade that they end up being absolute kid magnets. Your child needs to come into contact with people like Tony Robbins—people who preach the value of overcoming obstacles, reaching for the stars, and never giving up on your dreams. (This is such an important point that I’m risking ridicule and derision from some members of the adult audience for even suggesting people read a book written by a self-improvement coach like Tony Robbins.)

Allow me to explain. Your middle school child needs to come into contact with outstanding people who can motivate them into doing things they ordinarily would not do. Many of these excellent adults are already in your local community. You don’t need to find the real Tony Robbins, you just need to find the local adults who have the inner fire of a Tony Robbins.

Sometimes we, as adults, become skeptical of authors who profess to know the answers to how to become the self-actualized person the psychologist Abraham Maslow wanted us to be. Well, Robbins doesn’t care what topic or field or class or activity in which we choose to excel—he just wants us to excel in something.

What middle school kid wants to spend time around adults who are negative, cynical, bitter, sarcastic, and vengeful about the life circumstances they have worked their way into? Nobody. Find the energetic, positive, and “grab-the-world-by-the-tail” adults in your local community and figure out how your child can have frequent contact with them.

Why should teachers read this book? Sometimes we forget that teaching is about motivating students to do things they ordinarily wouldn’t do on their own. Teaching is not about the curriculum or your university degrees. Teaching is about electrifying students and motivating them to perform beyond their wildest expectations. Robbins helps remind us of the importance of finding a true mission in life and focusing our attention and attitudes towards attaining something truly special. Isn’t this what teaching is all about.

Drop the cynicism that can come with teaching for too long in a profession which no longer thinks of teachers as vital members of society. Reinvent yourself so you can help reinvent your students. If you teach like Tony Robbins would teach a middle school class, your students will feel as though they can accomplish anything and overcome any obstacle placed in their path.

Overall evaluation of the book: Robbins continues to be one of the best “rah-rah” motivational speakers and writers on the market today. Motivate yourself first. Then worry about motivating your child or students. Five Stars ★★★★★

Book Reviewed: Stout, Martha. (2005). The Sociopath Next Door. New York: MJF Books.

Why should parents read this book? Sociopaths are individuals who appear to have no conscience. They stab fellow employees and friends in the back without remorse, lie to get what they want, steal when it is convenient, and pretend as though they have been insulted when it is in their best interest to fake they have been hurt in some manner. Sociopaths are, in their very core, irresponsible and will not take responsibility for their actions. They view other people as weak and as prey for their machinations and manipulations. They will sometimes target the strong and spend years working to destroy their credibility. To make matters worse, sociopaths are often charming and charismatic individuals who have the ability to attract people to their cause. They rely on people to be gullible, naive, and stupid.

Fortunately, there are thing we can teach our kids when dealing with young, budding, sociopaths, such as accepting the reality that some people have no conscience, to question authority, to suspect those who use generous amounts of flattery, to avoid pitying them, and to not help a sociopath conceal their true identity. Sociopaths are not curable, because they often don’t think they need any help or that there is anything wrong with them. If your child continues to be friends with someone who constantly manipulates them, it’s time to help them understand that perhaps being friends with this individual is not in their best interest.

This is a fascinating read of some of the people both you and your child will encounter in your lives. If Stout’s statistics are correct, the chances are very good your child will be attending middle school with several young, budding sociopaths. This isn’t a very reassuring thought, but there are thing you can do to help your child navigate the turbulent waters when they meet classmates who have sociopathic tendencies.

You want your child to learn to trust people and help those who are in need of assistance. However, your child will need to know when to cut-off contact and cease communicating with classmates who continually demonstrate they are not capable of being responsible. Teach your child the rule of “three strikes and you’re out.” If they have potential friends who have lied to them three times or abused their friendship three times, they should immediately end the relationship and look for more stable friends. They will also have to know when it is time to pull back and not help someone—this will be hard to do because emerging sociopaths will be very good in appearing pitiful.

Why should teachers read this book? If Stout is right—and I think she is—every school building has young budding sociopaths walking the hallways. Educators don’t like to think about things like this because—well, it’s so depressing. (Stout is not at all optimistic that sociopaths can be helped.) However, middle school kids are still young and their brain is open to suggestion and alternative ways of thinking. This is why it is so important for educators to be teaching social skills and intervening when their students begin to manipulate other students and selfishly take care of their own narcissistic needs to the exclusion of the needs of anyone else. This is also why we need more counselors in the schools.

Overall evaluation of the book: This book will frighten you but it will also be a good reminder that we need to teach our kids to have the skills to recognize and know when to walk away from a situation that is not fixable. It’s also a wake-up call to design intervention programs for younger kids, with the goal of preventing the creation of future sociopaths. Five Stars ★★★★★

Book Reviewed: Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. (2010). The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. New York: Random House.

Why should parents read this book? It may seem strange for me to recommend that middle school parents read The Black Swan, a book by a contrarian intellectual that has delighted deep thinkers over the past few years. If you are seeking an easy and light read, you should never pick up this book. But if you desire something with substance, something with information that can alter how you view the events which shape your life, then Nassim Taleb may be just for you. The more difficult goal will be to relay and impart the wisdom you gain from Taleb to your middle school child.

The Black Swan is about outliers, those large extreme events which we attempt to explain away after the event. We often never see the Black Swan coming but often we will talk ourselves into believing that we predicted the event all along. The Black Swan is not kind to experts, top-down management, bureaucracy, and short-sighted planning and thinking. Instead, this author stresses the entrepreneurial spirit, anticipating the unexpected, and the importance of experience, experimentation, and clinical knowledge—all traits you want to instill in your middle school child.

Why should teachers read this book? Taleb isn’t in favor of teachers who precisely follow the curriculum, who fail to teach their students how to think deeply beyond rudimentary understanding, and who never lift their voice in contradiction to the dominant educational authority. The main value to teachers who read The Black Swan is to encourage them to think independently and challenge current assumptions. In this sense, Taleb encourages all adults to shed their preconceived notions of our explanations for how things work and to begin to look for the extreme, the unknown, and the highly improbable. This type of thinking can be transferred to the students. For example, Taleb makes a compelling case for avoiding the confirmation bias, which is our tendency to look for corroborating details and facts after we have made up our mind. Sounds like something which should be of interest to all teachers, yes?

Overall evaluation of the book: An intellectual romp through the world as we think we know it compared to how it probably more operates. If you can make it through this book, you will never view the events surrounding you in the same fashion. Five Stars ★★★★★

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