Sometimes I wade through the articles and books on education policy and think that there is a whole lot more garbage in this field than other fields. Maybe I’m just a grouchy old fart. I suppose that there is garbage amongst the historians and economists, too.
The “grit” fad is case study number one of the education variety of garbage. Light weight and silly. David Denby had an excellent critique of “grit” in the New Yorker last week.
In short, Angela Duckworth, a psychologist and TED Talker*, interviewed a whole bunch of successful people and found that they didn’t give up easily and were extremely focused on a particular ambition. So, all success is based on these two traits. She doesn’t look at losers who also have those traits and ask why they didn’t succeed.
Duckworth—indifferent to class, race, history, society, culture—strips success of its human reality, and her single-minded theory may explain very little. Is there any good football team, for instance, that doesn’t believe in endless practice, endurance, overcoming pain and exhaustion?
But this silly idea is everywhere. Every education conference tackles it. How do we make our students grittier? How can schools teach grit? And so on.
The power of light weight ideas is truly frightening.
(* What if they replaced the White Walkers on Game of Thrones with the TED Talkers?)