Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Older than dirt

It would be hard to miss the ubiquitous references, headlines, and links; it's all about grit. We've managed to uncover the essence of what makes people successful, whether in an academic setting or at work.  It's grit. It's not intelligence or creativity or grades that predict success.  It's grit.

And this is news?

Consider this:
Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.  Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.  Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determine alone are omnipotent. The slogan "press on" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race. (1)
Or this:
In Eastern's just assumed that struggle is a predictable part of the learning process. Everyone is expected to struggle in the process of learning, and so struggling becomes a chance to show that you, the student, have what it takes emotionally to resolve the problem by persisting through that struggle. (2)
Or any of the philosophies of education that espouse rigor, challenging material, high standards, and high expectations for students.

What frustrates me is not the focus on grit as the primary differentiator of success; I concur.  What seems wasteful to me is the research funding and mainstream attention given to something we already know. We should be refining the application of what we know and/or changing how we teach.

I suspect the new teaching would look an awful lot like what we've already done, perhaps more familiar to our parents and grandparents, because the only way to persistent through something challenging or hard is to be required to struggle with something challenging or hard.


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