The next of my fellow academics who mentions the word "grit" to me is going to feel the wrath of my electric sander on their behind. This latest in a long line ed clichés, has become the buzzword du jour of the no-excuses, corporate school reformers like University of Pennsylvania psychologist Angela Duckworth, who claim that grit is the critical ingredient to academic success. The notion was popularized in Paul Tough's book, How Children Succeed and has become the 2014 version of telling poor kids to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.
Thanks to Pedro Noguera and Anindya Kundu for this gritty response the other day on MSNBC.
More often than not, we discuss disparities in student performance in isolation from other factors that contribute to them, such as inequity in per pupil spending. If instead of posing the problem as an “achievement gap” which reinforces the idea that individual effort is the key factor determining differences in outcomes, we acknowledged it as an “opportunity gap,” we might do much more to address the disparities that limit the ability of children to learn.
Social science research has consistently shown that public school students with higher-income parents are likelier to attain higher levels of education than their lower-income peers. The United States continues to have the highest income inequality among first-world nations, and all the grit in the world will not change that. -- "Why students need more than ‘grit’".
|KIPP charter in New Orleans|
These behavior-modification theories, now being applied to the field of ed reform as well as GITMO's torture chambers, have little in common with the philosophy of John Dewey and other progressives who often focused on encouraging intellectual freedom and fostering creative intelligence, self-discipline, and social ethic necessary for students to find a meaningful and productive place within both their local community and the world. It was largely these ideas which drove the early small-schools movement of the 1990s.
That's not what the new grit-ists have in mind.