So it's not surprising that his grandkids got him wondering about — and researching — a big question: How well is the U.S. educating its top performers?
There are some really interesting ethnographic studies on reading practices in homes of varying SES and how this affects the early stages of education. Typically, white affluent parents encourage their children to read from a very young age, starting with the building blocks of words and slowly moving up, etc. But children from lower-income households usually don't read as much and thus don't get those "building blocks". But they tend to have much better high-level reasoning and structuring skills than the affluent kids because they're used to orally telling stories with their parents and other kids. The "building blocks" skills the affluent kids have benefit them a lot in the early years, but the poor kids' high-level story structuring skills don't come up in school until later. (A good way to think about this is that affluent kids are very good at answering what, but poorer kids are very good at answering why). But, the poorer kids are classified right off the bat as being low-performing, which leads to a vicious cycle of not being interested in school, and by the time they get to the point where their reasoning/structuring skills become relevant they've fallen pretty far behind. It's really a shame since these kids aren't low-performing, they just have different skills.