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05 July 2016 @ 11:34 am
True Grit  
No matter how many times the subject of grit comes up, it never fails to make me think of sandy beaches, gravel roads, and other things that can be irritants. Of course, I also think of oysters who use grit to produce a pearl. But when it comes to education, this concept of grit is more than a minor irritant. The work of Angela Duckworth came into focus as a result of a TED Talk. Her initial research, done in an Ivy League school only, led her to suggest that those who achieve have grit. What factors contribute to grit? I have seen grit in an equation: Optimism + Confidence + Creativity = Resilience = Hardiness =(+/- )Grit. Seems rather "calculated' (pun intended). Other components of grit have been noted: courage, conscientiousness, endurance, diligence. The million dollar question is: how do we teach grit? The answer: we can't. We can't teach grit any more than we can teach courage or endurance or resilience. These qualities emanate from our life experiences. They would seem to suggest that those who suffer great hardships should be the grittiest folks we know. Sadly, this is not the case.

The problem with grit is, at heart, how we have commodified it. We make grit and its essential components part of a "program" and take it into the classroom. We offer tests to measure grit: http://www.sas.upenn.edu/~duckwort/images/12-item%20Grit%20Scale.05312011.pdf. So, I took the quiz and scored rather low on the Grit-o-Meter: 4.63 or about the same score as 90+% of everyone who has taken it. And there was more to discover about my grittiness as I completed the descriptive statistic portion of the quiz. When asked about my education, I had to select between a PhD and an EdD. Someone the EdD is of lesser "value." Talk about irritant!

So, we now can give kids a score on the grit scale and attempt to make them grittier? Doubtful.

What I can do is offer kids the chance to read books in which characters face challenges and display courage, confidence, optimism, endurance, etc. The fact that I do that already and have done so for 40 years is testament to the affective nature of reading. Reading goes beyond the cognitive; we know this and have been aware of it for years, decades, longer. But now, let's have the newest "thing" in education come along, call affect something else that is catchy (say grit) and turn it into a product for the classroom. Sell it to educators as the cure for low test scores, for kids living in poverty, for everything wrong in education. VOILA!, problem, solved. But at what expense? Every cent drained from education for the late4st kit, program, panacea, goes into someone's pocket. By the time the research proves the process. product, or kit is ineffective, it is too late (I'm looking at you RtI). The losers when this happens? The kids.
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