Friday, July 1, 2016

Check Out Two Fine Reviews of Angela Duckworth’s Best Seller, “Grit” | janresseger

Check Out Two Fine Reviews of Angela Duckworth’s Best Seller, “Grit” | janresseger:

Check Out Two Fine Reviews of Angela Duckworth’s Best Seller, “Grit”

Here are two accessible and important reviews of Angela Duckworth’s best seller, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. Two thoughtful writers from very different backgrounds and perspectives worrying about our society’s obsession with the idea that we can best help the poorest children in America by toughening up their characters.
David Denby, writing for the New Yorker, reviews the book not as an expert in the field of education, but as a thoughtful and educated citizen considering the book’s arguments and its implications for a generation of children.  In The Limits of “Grit”, Denby notices that Duckworth, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, studied the character traits of high achievers as a way to identify the path toward high achievement: “Tautology haunts the shape of these fervent lessons. ‘Grittier spellers practiced more than less gritty spellers,’ Duckworth assures us.  Well, yes.  She is looking for winners, and winners of a certain sort: survivors in highly competitive activities in which a single physical, mental, or technical skill can be cultivated through relentless practice.”
Denby worries that, “Duckworth’s work… has been playing very well with… a variety of education reformers who have seized on ‘grit’ as a quality that can be located and developed in children, especially in poor children… This snowballing effect among school reformers can’t be understood without recognizing a daunting truth: We don’t know how to educate poor children in this country… For children, the situation has grown worse as we’ve slackened our efforts to fight poverty.  In 1966, when Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty initiatives were a major national priority, the poverty rate among American children was eighteen percent.  Now it is twenty-two percent.  If we suffer from a grit deficiency in this country, it shows up in our unwillingness to face what is obviously true—that poverty is the real cause of failing schools.”  Denby concludes: “Duckworth—indifferent to class, race, history, society, culture—strips success from its human reality.”
Denby notes that  Duckworth and her colleagues, “boiled down a long list of character traits—what they called virtues—into a master list of seven that could be quantified and graded in schools.  Grit, of course, is one; the others are self-control (both academic and social), zest, optimism, social intelligence, gratitude, and curiosity.  Now, there’s something very odd about this list.  There’s nothing in it about honesty or courage; nothing about integrity, kindliness, responsibility for others.  The list is innocent of ethics, any notion of moral development, any mention of the behaviors by which character has traditionally been marked… Putting it politically, the ‘character’ inculcated in students… is perfectly suited to producing corporate drones in a capitalist economy.  Putting it morally and existentially, the list is timid and empty.”
And a tough-grit curriculum may actually hurt the most vulnerable students—those living in poverty—children who have been abused.  Here Denby turns to Paul Tough’s new book,Helping Students Succeed, a book in which Tough carefully re- examines the no-excuses schools pushing grit and rejects the idea that grit can be taught with behavioristic and Check Out Two Fine Reviews of Angela Duckworth’s Best Seller, “Grit” | janresseger:

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