By: Bill Bosher
The Brookings Institution has launched a series of studies related to "non-cognitive" skills and social mobility. They are specifically looking at the relationship between character and factors associated with poverty.
The work is certainly controversial. Some observers note that the conclusion that affluence creates motivation and that motivation creates affluence is nothing new. If you understand that work brings rewards, you are likely to work harder. With success come status, approval, and more opportunities.
While their empirical research has projected that early reflections of character through "attitudes, preferences, and mindsets" can forecast success later in life, opponents respond that this work simply perpetuates inequality… if not inequity.
Brookings notes, "public policy to improve character strengths have so far been patchy, unfocused, and largely ineffective". While the work should be watched closely, perhaps it amends the lines, "Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach him to fish and he eats for a lifetime." Even with skill the man must be motivated to put his line in the water.