Good read: The problem with teaching ‘grit’ to poor kids? They already have it.

This is an important piece by Ethan Ris shared by Valerie Strauss. Grit has been all over the place, although the link with academic success is rather low and Angela Duckworth (who made Grit an important theme) has warned again and again for over-emphasizing the, ehm, importance of grit.

In a recent peer-reviewed article in the Journal of Educational Controversy, I examined the history of the discourse surrounding this special trait. It far predates Duckworth’s research, of course. My investigation led me to two conclusions. The first is that the widespread assumption that grit is a salient concept for low-income students is a stark misconception. The second is that while grit theory offers little of value to those disadvantaged students, it can certainly harm them, by romanticizing hardship.

Here, though, is the fundamental problem with the notion that the importance of grit has to do with bettering the chances of disadvantaged students. Children raised in poverty display ample amounts of grit every day, and they don’t need more of it in school. As former NBC News anchor Brian Williams noted while interviewing low-income students about grit at a KIPP charter school: “The kids we met here at KIPP already get it.”

As Duckworth and other scholars insist, grit is not a fixed quality but one that can be developed. And what better arena for developing grit than facing the hardships of poverty and surviving? Poor children, therefore, are not the ones who need to be taught grit. As I show in my research, they are the ones who have historically taught it to the rest of us.

Read the full post here.

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