The Ed Reform Buzzword of the Decade: "Grit"
October 10, 2014, 11:54 AM
Print Friendly and PDF
51TQTV4XT0L[1]Perhaps the hottest buzzword of the decade in educational reform circles is a new concept invented by Professor Angela Duckworth, for which she won a MacArthur Genius award: “grit.”

From Vox:

‘Grit’ might be more important than IQ. Now schools need to learn to teach it.

Updated by Libby Nelson on October 9, 2014, 7:30 a.m. ET @libbyanelson

… A TED talk from Angela Duckworth, who popularized and has researched grit, has been viewed more than 5 million times; last year, Duckworth won a MacArthur “genius grant.” Author Paul Tough wrote a whole book, How Children Succeed, about the importance of noncognitive skills.

Ad yet, new as it sounds, 19th Century Protestant America was obsessed with inculcating “grit.” That is why Charles Portis’s 1968 novel True Grit is about an arch-Protestant frontier girl with a memorably precise vocabulary who hires drunken sheriff Rooster Cogburn to avenge her family: because she perceives (or hopes) that deep down he truly has the Victorian virtue of “grit.”

By the way, if you are looking for contenders for the Great American Novel, Portis’s book looks like it might stand the test of time: after the Coen Brother’s successful remake of the old John Wayne movie in 2010, the novel was reissued and hit #1 on the bestseller list in 2011.

Ethan Coen explained the Brothers’ decision-making process:

“We made a movie about Jews [2009’s mordant A Serious Man], so we decided to make a movie about a Protestant.…Mattie is even more of a schoolmarm in the book—such an old Protestant at the age of 14, which is why the book is so funny.”
So, it’s not as if nobody has ever thought about teaching grit before. We have a vast library of resources on the subject (e.g., Kipling). It’s just that they come from an age that postmodern educators find uncongenial. They’d have to insert Trigger Warnings on every other page.

Commenter candid_observer adds:

I wonder how long this “grit” thing will be allowed to continue.

The problem isn’t just that the Victorian age needs Trigger Warnings. It’s that the very concept of a Trigger Warning is the anti-grit, the notion that even the minutest microaggression will induce flailing and incompetence in anyone looking it in the eye.

Rejecting microaggressions would be the end of an age, and ages don’t go away so easily.

Right, we live in an age that celebrates being a victim. How can the need for grit compete with this constant message?