As usual, Mike Rose, is spot on. Grit comes in many forms: some attractive and some not. Some imposed by adversity and some supported by affluence and safety. Because, in fact, I have always thought of “grit” as an ally to “street smarts”—sticking to one’s self-initiated task given one’s recognition of reality. I thought that the “grittiest” kids in my class were usually some of the kids with least advantages in terms of wealth and support, who somehow insisted on “smiling” through it, “gritting” their teeth (which I assumed the origin or partial definition of the word) and designing a new path given the circumstances. Not just sitting down and having a tantrum. But the tantrum often is successful—depending on the circumstances. Ditto with “gritting one’s teeth”—”it depends”. What “it depends” on is not easy to figure out, but rests on an array of flexible talents that often go by the name of “street smarts.” If we stop and think about it, I think we would see that “perseverance” is maybe more vital for poor people in underserved communities more than it is for those of us growing up with many resources , good health, lots of second chances, etc. If we did a little better at leveling the field we wold all benefit by grit, but we wouldd also make having it count more if everything else wasn’t already so uneven.

See Mike Rose’s Blog:

    One of the many frustrating things about education policy and practice in our country is the continual search for the magic bullet—and all the hype and trite lingo that bursts up around it. One such bullet is the latest incarnation of character education, particularly the enthrallment with “grit,” a buzz word for perseverance and determination. Readers of this blog are familiar with my concerns and can read my earlier posts by clicking here, or go to a 2014 report on character and opportunity from the Brookings Institution in which I have a brief cautionary essay.

            In a nutshell, I worry about the limited success of past attempts at character education and the danger in our pendulum-swing society that we will shift our attention from improving subject matter instruction. I also question the easy distinctions made between “cognitive” and “non-cognitive” skills. And I fear that we will sacrifice policies aimed at reducing poverty for interventions to change the way poor people see the world.

            In this post, I would like to further explore these concerns—and a few new ones—by focusing on “grit,” for it has so captured the fancy of our policy makers, administrators, and opinion-makers…

(click here to read the rest of his blog)

Yes, Mike, you are right right right. But, furthermore, the poor exercise plenty of grit every single day they stay afloat. They have to use a lot more of it just to survive much less to use it for getting ahead. If we made it easier to survive, imagine what the grit I saw daily would have done for their futures!

3 Responses

  1. The etymology of grit goes back to the Greek chrōs = skin, which I think tells you all you need to know. There are poetic connotations of charisma, suggesting the anointed ones, which ultimately comes down to “folks like me”.

  2. MIKE ROSE SAYS: I also question the easy distinctions made between “cognitive” and “non-cognitive” skills.

    Me too. A legacy of mind versus body and other dualisms. I have the same problem with the classifications academic and non-academic subjects or inquiries.That is because so much of my work is in arts education. Studies in the arts are academic but not MERELY academic. I think that is or should be true for other matters treated under the auspices of schools. The writers of the CCSS decided (without any obvious consultation with anyone) to classify the arts as “a technical subject” thereby relegating the educational worth of studies to career prep. At the same time, the writers were keen to have students demonstrate some competencies that require education in the arts but are valued only as proofs that the ELA standards are met.

  3. Please consider well implemented project based learning and well implemented youth community service. Among their benefits are that these active learning approaches help young people learn they can accomplish important things, and can make a difference. So progressive approaches do help young people in important ways, sometimes called the development of “grit.”

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