Gadfly’s Terry Ryan reviews David Goslin’s Engaging Minds: Motivation and Learning in America’s Schools, which argues that “only a small proportion of the nation’s students — perhaps as few as 20 or 25 percent — are engaged in learning most of the time.”

To close the achievement gap and sustain measurable increases in academic performance, Goslin says, get students engaged, and keep them engaged in their own learning. Success in school is largely the result of “hard work, perseverance, self-discipline, and respect for authority.” Yet far too many children think that if something is hard, they simply don’t have the ability to learn it, so it’s OK to give up. Regrettably, many parents and teachers also buy into this mindset.

In California, we have a name for students who believe in hard work, perseverance, self-discipline and respect for authority: Nguyen.

I’ve been reading the valedictorian profiles in the San Jose Mercury News. It’s not true that all the top students are Asian-American; it’s only about half. Discounting continuation school valedictorians, about 5 percent have Spanish surnames; the area is more than one-quarter Hispanic. There are no blacks, but they’re a very small percentage of the population.

By the way, many San Jose area valedictorians plan to major in neuroscience, biotechnology, immunology, molecular biology, microbiology or just plain old biology; even the future English majors want to go to medical school.

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