For those of you who are not active on Twitter or do not follow me (what??), my post a few days ago that responded to Ira Socol’s thoughts about “grit” and “slack” has touched off what I think many of us feel is a truly important discussion for educators. Some of our best educational thought leaders have weighed in, and I urge you to read their blogs on this thread, and to follow them closely: Pam Moran, Josie Holford, Ira Socol, Chris Thinnes, Dave Ostroff, Mark Crotty, Eric Juli, Paul Tough, and Paul Thomas. There is a high level discourse between Ira, Paul, and others playing out in the comments to my post.
Why is this so important? Many educators and others have quickly grabbed on to the concept of “grit” as most popularized by Angela Duckworth. She has sold a LOT of books and is a very active speaker. The idea that “grit” is an essential quality in differentiating success and failure is easy to imagine; the word itself is being quickly embedded in many schools’ vision statements and cultures.
These thought leaders are asking important questions: Is she right? And, is it that simple? Are there really data that point to grit as an indicator of success, or are these comfortable narratives? To what segment of the total population is this indicator significant? And in what circumstances? As pretty much all of us have pointed out, children born into or burdened by poverty may have lots of grit yet “success” is still hard and far away. What are the kinds of poverty that stand as obstacles to success for our children? Economic? Emotional? Social? Other? What is the role of education and the school-family partnership in dealing with these poverties in order that our students learn or re-learn or afforded the time and space to experience lessons that will lead to their future success?
I don’t have the answer to these questions, but I do know that we are educators. Let’s engage deeply before jumping to a sound bite or new word and embedding our resources there. Take the time to read and hear what others say. Seek solutions that are elegant, not just convenient.