“Grit” Takes another Hit (with Caveats)

radical eyes for equity

David Denby’s The Limits of “Grit” in The New Yorker offers further evidence that the “grit” train is slowly but surely being derailed.

Paul Tough, journalist, and Angela Duckworth, scholar, have been central to the rise of “grit” as a silver-bullet in education reform—mostly targeting high-poverty racial minority students in “no excuses” charter schools. Both Tough and Duckworth have recently begun pack pedaling slightly as they release new books, Tough’s second on teaching children in poverty and Duckworth’s first on her highly celebrated “grit,” which was a hit as a TED talk and garnered her a MacAuthur Genius grant.

While the “grit” train was gaining steam among politicians, the media, and edureformers, several educators and scholars raised significant concerns about the essential racist and classist elements of “grit” research, the “grit” narrative, and why both are so politically powerful and popular with the public.

“Grit” is receiving another…

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Ignoring Poverty in the U.S. Redux: A Reader

radical eyes for equity

We were in Rye, passing the First Church, and the breeze from the ocean was already strong. A man with a great stack of roofing shingles in a wheelbarrow was having difficulty keeping the shingles from blowing away; the ladder, leaning against the vestry roof, was also in danger of being blown over. The man seemed in need of a co-worker—or, at least, of another pair of hands.

“WE SHOULD STOP AND HELP THAT MAN,” Owen observed, but my mother was pursuing a theme and, therefore, she’d noticed nothing unusual out the window….

“WE MISSED DOING A GOOD DEED,” Owen said morosely, “THAT MAN SHINGLING THE CHURCH—HE NEEDED HELP.”

A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving

I wrote Ignoring Poverty in the U.S. to reject the decades-long focus on education reform targeted in-school only accountability driven by ever-new standards and high-stakes testing.

But that work also reveals the incredible…

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Defund the “Grit” Industry: Alternatives to Tough and Duckworth

radical eyes for equity

Once edujournalist Paul Tough and “grit”-genius Angela Duckworth realized their significant contributions to the “grit” industry were gradually being unmasked, they discovered ways to cash in on backpedalling (slightly) to keep the train rolling.

Regretfully, many very good people have praised Tough and Duckworth for their much-too-late and way-too-little—somehow ignoring the incredible damage that has been done to vulnerable populations of students—and even recommend Tough and Duckworth’s “new” books.

Please, I beg of you, do not forgive and forget, and especially do not fund further the “grit” industry.

Let me offer instead a few alternatives:

Scarcity: The New Science of Having Less and How It Defines Our Lives, Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir

9781250056115

[See also George Saunders’s Allegory of Scarcity and Slack]

Reaching and Teaching Students in Poverty: Strategies for Erasing the Opportunity Gap, Paul Gorski

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[See also Recommended: Reaching and Teaching Students in Poverty, Paul C. Gorski]

For…

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