Pamela Cantor on the Science of Adversity

As we consider the various challenges any nation faces, teaching our children – preparing them with the tools required to be successful, active players in a continually evolving society – is likely one of the most important and hardest.

The challenge is particularly great for children who experience various forms of trauma, including poverty. What’s required – from new insights to teacher training to school design and beyond – to help them succeed?

It turns out, science has something to say about this – something my guest calls “The Science of Adversity.”

Dr. Pamela Cantor is President and CEO of Turnaround for Children. She practiced child psychiatry for nearly two decades, specializing in trauma and founded Turnaround after co-authoring a study on the impact of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York City schoolchildren. Dr. Cantor recognized that the scientific research on stress and the developing brain that she had learned in medical school should be translated into practices to help children and schools challenged by the effects of unrelenting adversity.

As background, Dr. Cantor is a Visiting Scholar in Education at Harvard University, a member of the Council of Distinguished Scientists for the National Commission on Social, Emotional & Academic Development, and a leader of the Science of Learning and Development Initiative. An Ashoka Fellow, Dr. Cantor was awarded the 2014 Purpose Prize for Intergenerational Impact.

Dr. Cantor started Turnaround to help schools understand the impact of adversity on learning and to put children on a healthier developmental trajectory so they can live the lives they choose. Specifically, Turnaround for Children translates neuroscientific research into tools and strategies for schools serving students impacted by adversity, in order to accelerate healthy development and academic achievement.

How does it work? That’s what we discussed.

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