Sunday, September 18, 2016

Teaching children grit: There's a dark side to convincing people to never give up — Quartz

Teaching children grit: There's a dark side to convincing people to never give up — Quartz:

Teaching children grit could risk turning them into amoral jerks

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According to the grit narrative, children in the United States are lazy, entitled and unprepared to compete in the global economy. Schools have contributed to the problem by neglecting socio-emotional skills. The solution, then, is for schools to impart the dispositions that enable American children to succeed in college and careers. According to this story, politicians, policymakers, corporate executives and parents agree that kids need more grit.

The person who has arguably done more than anyone else to elevate the concept of grit in academic and popular conversations is Angela Duckworth, professor at the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. In her new book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, she explains the concept of grit and how people can cultivate it in themselves and others.

According to Duckworth, grit is the ability to overcome any obstacle in pursuit of a long-term project: “To be gritty is to hold fast to an interesting and purposeful goal. To be gritty is to invest, day after week after year, in challenging practice. To be gritty is to fall down seven times and rise eight.” Duckworth names musicians, athletes, coaches, academics and business people who succeed because of grit. Her book will be a boon for policymakers who want schools to inculcate and measure grit.

There is a time and place for grit. However, praising grit as such makes no sense because it can often lead to stupid or mean behavior. Duckworth’s book is filled with gritty people doing things that they, perhaps, shouldn’t.

Take Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology and Duckworth’s graduate school mentor. In a 1967 article, Seligman and his co-author describe a series of experiments on dogs. The first day, the dogs are placed in a harness and administered electrical shocks. One group can stop the shocks if they press their nose against a panel, and the other group cannot. The next day, all of the dogs are placed in a shuttle box and again administered shocks that the dogs can stop by Teaching children grit: There's a dark side to convincing people to never give up — Quartz:

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