This is an interesting book with the perspective of a unique person that ultimately falters because of the blind spots of the author. 

Esther Wojcicki was a Journalism and English teacher at Palo Alto High School from the 1980s until 2020. She also raised three very successful daughters in Palo Alto during the early days of Silicon Valley. Her daughters; Susan Wojcicki the CEO of YouTube, Anne Wojcicki the CEO and founder of 23andMe, and Janet Wojcicki a professor of pediatrics at UCSF, are undeniably interesting people. And Wojcicki uses their success as a demonstration that her style of parenting works. In fact, to some degree she takes credit for their success as well the success of the students who filled her classes during the 80’s and 90’s. A class conveniently located in the heart of Silicon Valley. She does not mention the role that location and luck played in her, her daughters, and all of her various students’ successes. Susan rented her garage because she needed the money and the founders of Google used it to start the company. Anne made connections in the Valley, started her company in 2006, and then married Sergey Brin a year later. She name drops a dozen now-famous students who likely succeeded more because of their location and their parents socio-economic status than because they took her class in the 90’s. The stories that she tells about herself or her children are glowing and somewhat empty anecdotes that feel like Thomas Kinkade paintings more than deep revelations about how to teach and parent. There are some good insights here, but they are crowded out by a sense of self congratulation and comfort food reading.

In spite of that, Wojcicki has some good ideas. She tells anecdotal stories about her students and her daughters that are meant to highlight her mnemonic TRICK: Trust, Respect, Independence, Collaboration, and Kindness. The chapters in the book deals with these qualities, with some extra chapters on grit and modeling behavior which detail why she thinks they are important.

The strongest chapters were those on trust and collaboration. She focuses on how collaboration worked when she taught her journalism students the importance in teaching everyone how to work together. Although the book was written in 2018, when she was still a classroom teacher, her message was especially relevant in the COVID era. Her chapter on trust takes issue with helicopter parenting and the inability to trust their children to find and follow their own passions.

But my biggest problem with this book is that the author provides no scientific data to back up her assertions. Some of her points do have scientific backing, but the relevant studies won’t be found in the pages of this book. Anecdotal evidence can provide powerful illustrations of your point, but if the basis is not peer reviewed science the points are just ideas that sound convincing. She named the book “How to Raise Successful People” but almost any scientific study would find that the main contributor to the successful people named in her book was being born in Silicon Valley between 1965 and 1995.

Wojcicki raised her kids in an environment of massive technological financial change but she downplays the role technology will play in the future of teaching and the future of parenting. She rails against too many computer games, cell phones and too much internet even though two of her daughters are intimately involved with technology, and at least Susan makes money primarily by trying to increase video consumption on the phone. She complains about how easy divorce has gotten even though one of her daughters was involved with a infamous divorce from Sergey Brin. Children are being raised in an entirely different landscape than the one Esther was raised in or the one she raised her children in. She repeats disproven theories like the idea that computer games perpetuate violence when it is so  well  documented that it shouldn’t be in doubt.

There are many science based books about how to raise people that may be a better choice than this book. The important points that you should encourage independence and self-reliance in children, do not outweigh the rest of my issues with the book or the author.

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