I hate “Grit” in Education

Grit is the new buzzword in education. Angela Duckworth decided the difference maker in education was grit. Fuck test scores. Ignore all other assessments. If kids can just suck it up and work hard enough, then they’ll be successful.

What frustrates me is that the discussion around Grit is always in reference to low performing schools. These schools tend to be in the poorest regions in the country and the overwhelming narrative is one of laziness. Read between the lines of her book and you’ll see a hidden message: these kids are not successful because they don’t work hard enough.

A quick trip across the tracks reveals their wealthy peers are given the exact opposite message. When a wealthy student has trouble various support systems kick in. I’m talking private tutoring, extra- curriculars and external reward systems galore. Wealthy kids don’t conform to their circumstances, circumstances conform to them.

Yet I still find myself running into my classroom like a drill sergeant. Just the other day I was belaboring the fact that my students needed to work twice as hard to beat those kids from Queens. And they look at me with exhausted eyes and struggles beyond my comprehension and say “Yes, Mr. Arroyo.” God, how much of an inconsiderate asshole am I?

Tomorrow is a new day and I will continue to tell my kids that they need to be gritty. But can I add an addendum to this mantra? Be gritty because the world is unfair. Be gritty because no one is going to give you a hand out. Be gritty because you deserve to be remarkable. And then when you’re successful, give back to your neighborhood so that way the kids that come after don’t have to be as gritty as you were.