Leah chose this video last night for our family tv-time and while we watched it, I must say, I wanted to rail against it big-time, a feeling that increased as the talk went on. As I pondered it afterward though, I realized I wasn’t pissed off because I thought Dr. Duckworth is wrong, but because I’m forced to admit that – at least in terms of how success is measure in mainstream education and society – she is right.
The thing that she calls “grit” (I’m not fond of that word, honestly, but whatever) is something that I lack in abundance – at least in terms of the success rubric being covered in this talk. So this is a particularly touchy subject for me.
I’ve grown up telling myself that the ease with which I tend to give up on things is mostly a product of two big childhood factors: One, how easy school was for me in general, to the point that I was rarely challenged to try very hard and thus never learned how – and Two, how difficult my home life was, where I was taught to equate “grit” with violence and bitter rage, to the point that I tried to excise any hint of “toughness” from my personality so that I would not grow up to be the violent hair-trigger ball of anger that was my father. Somewhere along the line, those two factors added up to me having lots of trouble mustering the kinds of stick-to-it behaviors that mainstream society puts under the umbrella of “work ethic”. That is apparently what Dr. Duckworth is calling “grit”.
Since I’ve grown up and encountered various types of therapies, I’ve learned to adjust my thinking and cope with this stuff a bit. And I’m still working on it, because I realize it is incorrect to assume that every time things get really tough or challenging or tense that my only two choices are to lash out violently or totally turtle up and make myself as small as possible. I don’t need to take the concept of fight-or-flight to its dramatic extremes and then always choose flight.
Anyhow, here’s the video that got me musing all this stuff today. What do you think? Is “grit” the right answer to the question of success in school and in life? Is the prevailing rubric of “success” even the right question in the first place?