The narrative of grit: We need to change the system, too
I’ve heard Angela Duckworth talk about the importance of grit in achieving success in American schools (see National Geographic piece on her here). I’ve also heard Jane Margolis rail against this idea, saying that the grit narrative is blaiming the underprivileged for not succeeding more in schools. The below blog piece does a nice job explaining about the interaction of poverty and the grit narrative.
Teachers who subscribe to this “grit” narrative risk conveying the idea that poverty is caused by poor work ethic. The “grit” narrative presents America as a meritocracy where everyone person has full control over their destiny. The “American Dream” is certainly a seductive idea. It is also little more than a fairy tale for many living in poverty today. Just looking at the few examples of poor minorities who have broken through the barriers of poverty creates a blindspot towards all of the other reasons that make it difficult to break through those barriers. These other reasons desperately need attention – both inside and outside of the school system. I see the “grit” narrative as a classic confusion between correlation and causation. This narrative and other ideas highlight the risks that teachers take if they act purely out of a sense of helpful urgency.