Grit: A Skeptical Look at the Latest Educational Fad (##) – Alfie Kohn

One of two related articles by the ever-wonderful Alfie Kohn. The other, on ‘growth mindsets’ is at http://www.alfiekohn.org/article/mindset/

Both are cutting attacks on a couple of terrible education fads that appear to be gaining sway with politicians and that are both, as Kohn explains very well, not about supporting creative, interested, engaged learners but instead about ensuring conformity and control. As it often the case in Kohn’s articles, both swing round to Kohn’s central agenda of promoting self-determination theory, both are well informed by substantial research. Kohn is kinder to Carol Dweck’s growth mindset research than to the appallingly unsupported and unsupportable ‘grit’ nonsense promoted by appropriately named Paul Tough, but the results are much the same: the focus on making individuals fit the structure rather than changing the poisonous structure of educational systems themselves.

Read one, read both.

Address of the bookmark: http://www.alfiekohn.org/article/grit/

I am a professional learner, employed as a Full Professor at Athabasca University, where I research lots of things broadly in the area of learning and technology and teach mainly in the School of Computing & Information Systems, of which I am the Chair. I am married, with two grown-up children, and live in beautiful Vancouver.

2 Comments on Grit: A Skeptical Look at the Latest Educational Fad (##) – Alfie Kohn

  1. MOCK! says:

    Jon wrote “the focus on making individuals fit the structure rather than changing the poisonous structure of educational systems themselves.”

    I’m not sure I agree with the first part. I view it as helping kids SURVIVE the structure….and I need more help on the second part….I’m not seeing much in either article to give me hope.

  2. Jon Dron says:

    It is a very damning indictment of a system that help needs to be given to survive it! It is good, though, that there is enough softness left in the system that people can overcome it, despite efforts from misguided folk to remove that softness. It’s the structure that needs to change. It can and will change – it happened before in order to reach this point, and we can change it, from the bottom up and the top down, not to mention from the side – and I suspect that the side is where the big changes will come from.

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