Monday, February 15, 2010


Malcolm Gladwell, in Outliers, cites K. Anders Ericsson’s research on the difference between amateur and professional pianists, and writes: “Their research suggests that once a musician has enough ability to get into a top musical school, the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works. That’s it. And what’s more, the people at the very top don’t just work harder or even much harder than everyone else. They work much, much harder.”

We see those who labor constantly to relieve our students from working too hard academically. They worry about stress, strain, overwork, joyless lives, etc. But that only seems to apply to academics. When it comes to sports, there is nearly universal satisfaction with young athletes who dedicate themselves to their fitness and the skills needed for their sport(s) not only after school, but during the summer as well.

While reading nonfiction books in the summer has not yet been widely accepted or required, high school athletes are expected to run, lift weights, stretch, and shoot hoops (or whatever it takes for their sports) as often in the summer as they can find the time. Perhaps if we applied the seriousness with which we take sports for young people to their pursuit of academic achievement, we would find more students reading complete nonfiction books in the summer and fewer needing remedial courses later.

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