Saturday, June 13, 2009

Smile Like You Mean It

Thanks to Eoin McL for giving me a new insight into what we consider to be non-cognitive ability (or non-cognitive skill). I've discussed this concept before in relation to labour market earnings, graduate education, life expectancy and development of cognitive skill.

Eoin pointed me towards the author Samuel Smiles, who according to Wikipedia, was editor of the Leeds Times from 1838-1845. In this role, he advocated radical causes ranging from women's suffrage to free trade to parliamentary reform. Wikipedia reports that in the 1850s he seems to have completely given up on parliamentary reform and other structural changes as a means of social advance. For the rest of his career, he advocated individual self improvement. This is the link to what we think of now as non-cognitive skills. Smiles is best known as the writer of what can be considered as self-help books, some of which are listed below:

Self-Help (with Illustrations of Conduct and Perseverance), London, 1859
Character, London, 1871
Thrift, London, 1875
Duty, London, 1880
Life and Labour, London 1887

I'm currently reading the first book; electronic copies of this and many others are available here on the Project Gutenberg website. The Smilesian view on the importance of education is provided here by James Stansfield.

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