This year marks the 30th anniversary of political economist Andrew Weiss’ seminal paper demonstrating that the relationship between high school graduation and earnings can be explained by non-cognitive factors — such as a lower propensity to quit — rather than the simple accumulation of knowledge.
Twenty years after that revelation, Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman demonstrated that “personality, persistence, motivation, and charm” are of paramount importance to success in life.
None of this is new news. But as a nation we still generally teach non-cognitive skills only as a byproduct of the educational process, rather than an intentional outcome. And that is unfortunate, because research has consistently demonstrated that the non-cognitive skills gap is a key factor in socioeconomic disparity and intergenerational poverty.
A lot of times, progress in education is stalled by a lack of conclusive research. That’s not the case when it comes to the importance of non-cognitive skills development. The research is conclusive. As a nation, it is well past time to prioritize the addition of non-cognitive skills development for our students.