Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Square Peg

Square Peg: My Story and What It Means for Raising Innovators, Visionaries, and Out-of-the-Box Thinkers 
by Todd Rose with Katherine Ellison
Hyperion, 3/5/2013
Hardcover, 256 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1401324278

Square Peg illuminates the struggles of millions of bright young children—and their frustrated parents and teachers—who are stuck in a one-size-fits-all school system that fails to approach the student as an individual. Rose shares his own incredible journey from troubled childhood to Harvard, seamlessly integrating cutting-edge research in neuroscience and psychology along with advances in the field of education, to ultimately provide a roadmap for parents and teachers of kids who are the casualties of America’s antiquated school system.

With a distinguished blend of humor, humility, and practical advice for nurturing children who are a poor fit in conventional schools, Square Peg is a game-changing manifesto that provides groundbreaking insight into how we can get the most out of all the students in our classrooms, and why today’s dropouts could be tomorrow’s innovators.

My Thoughts:
Albert Camus said, "We are all special cases." Square Peg: My Story and What It Means for Raising Innovators, Visionaries, and Out-of-the-Box Thinkers by Todd Rose, with Katherine Ellison, certainly proves that we are all special and unique, especially in the way we approach learning. Square Peg is both a memoir and a personal manifesto. Todd Rose was a bright child who could not seem to avoid trouble and was quickly labeled a delinquent. Part of his problem was the way the educational system reacted to him in a misguided attempt to change or alter his behavior. Rose ended up a high school drop out, but he later went on to become a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Rose elaborates on four ideas derived from the study of complex systems and recent neuroscience findings: variability is the rule (our perceptions and reactions are much more dynamic and diverse than previously thought); emotions are serious stuff (children's emotional states do influence their ability to learn); context is key (the circumstances can effect the behavior - this includes labeling children with a disorder); feedback loops determine long-term success or failure (chaos theory and small changes making a difference). At the end of each chapter Rose offers a summary of the "Big Ideas" from that chapter and "Action Items" for parents.
It was enlightening to see what Rose's mother and grandmother did right as Rose makes a case for student centered education. He makes it clear that we can't fix a child's behavior. Behavior is an extremely complex system that originates from the interaction of a person's biology, past experiences, and immediate context. If we can understand this complex systems, we could learn to do a better job as teachers and parents in supporting and educating kids, rather than setting them up for failure. Once a child is caught up in a negative feedback loop, it is hard to escape.
Medicating ADHD children so they can fit into the environment of school, while beneficial for many, may not completely address the root cause of a child's learning difficulties. The stress children can feel while at school does not help their ability to learn. Finding a way to use current technology to help all children individualize their education could potentially transform education and help many overcome their special needs or limitations.  For example, Rose himself had problems with his short term memory, so the ability to record a multi-step series of instructions with built in reminders would have benefited him enormously.
Square Peg is entertaining as well as informative. I appreciate the "Big Ideas" and "Action Items" at the end of each chapter. It is a nice way to summarize what points Rose believes are the most important from all the information and personal anecdotes he provides. Square Peg includes an epilogue with Rose's current research findings, chapter notes, and a bibliography.
Very Highly Recommended -  I truly enjoyed this book!

Todd Rose is a faculty member at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, international lecturer, and leading thinker in the field of educational neuroscience. Today, Todd works at the forefront of innovation in learning science and education, contributing new insights about learning variability and helping to design new educational technologies flexible enough to support all students in reaching their full potential.

Katherine Ellison is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who has written three books on neuroscience and learning differences, most recently Buzz: A Year of Paying Attention, as well as related articles for media including The New York Times, Washington Post, and The Atlantic magazine.

Disclosure: I received an advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher and TLC for review purposes. 

TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS for Square Peg:

Monday, March 4th:  Life Unfocused
Tuesday, March 5th:  Two Bears Farm and the Three Cubs
Wednesday, March 6th:  She Treads Softly
Thursday, March 7th:  Overstuffed
Friday, March 8th:  Book Club Classics!
Monday, March 11th:  Family Volley
Tuesday, March 12th:  Attention Deficit Whatever
Wednesday, March 13th:  Misbehavin’ Librarian
Thursday, March 14th:  Positive Thinking and ADHD
Friday, March 15th:  Smart Kids with LD
Monday, March 18th:  Earnest Parenting
Tuesday, March 19th:  Pragmatic Mom
Wednesday, March 20th:  Book Snob
Thursday, March 21st:  Luxury Reading
Friday, March 22nd:  Susan Heim on Parenting guest post
Monday, March 25th:  There’s a Book
Wednesday, March 27th:  Stiletto Storytime

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow, it sounds like Rose overcame a lot and had become quite a success. This story is definitely inspiring!

Thanks for being on the tour.