“But teaching grit is tricky. “There’s no evidence that any particular curriculum or textbook or app can effectively teach kids grit or self-control or curiosity,” says Tough.
“It’s not an inherent trait, you can’t give students a test and know if they have it,” Tough said. “It’s a series of behaviors or habits.”
When Tough examined how to actually impart these qualities for his follow-up book author of Helping Children Succeed: What Works and Why, research into neurobiology and motivation led him to conclude that teaching grit was not nearly enough.
Readers might prefer the term ‘resilience’, as introduced by Martin Seligman and others, than the very Wild West sounding ‘grit’. Rooster Cogburn had it in abundance, not sure he would have approved of a namby-pamby college-boy word like ‘resilience’.
An allied concept is agency, of which Wikipedia tells us: “The concept of agency implies an active organism, one who desires, makes plans, and carries out actions. The sense of agency plays a pivotal role in cognitive development, including the first stage of self-awareness (or pre-theoretical experience of one’s own mentality), which scaffolds theory of mind capacities.[page needed] Indeed, the ability to recognize oneself as the agent of a behavior is the way the self builds as an entity independent from the external world. The sense of agency and its scientific study has important implications in social cognition, moral reasoning, and psychopathology. The conceptual distinction between SA and SO was defined by philosopher and phenomenologist Shaun Gallagher. Using a different terminology, essentially the same distinction has been made by John Campbell, and Lynn Stephens and George Graham.
So here’s the key question for your children, or whoever you are concerned about, or indeed yourself, and it is this:
Do I have agency?
Do I as a person recognise myself as the agent of my behavior? Because this is “the way the self builds as an entity independent from the external world”. Or are you a passive receptacle for media manipulation and everybody else’s desires and wishes?
One keynote speaker at a conference organised by the now defunct Children’s Workforce Development Council made a sterling attempt to promote agency as one of the key aspects of improving well-being in school-aged children. He is right, IMHO, and largely ignored. I would tell you his name but I don’t have his presentation to hand.
“There’s no evidence that any particular curriculum or textbook or app can effectively teach kids grit or self-control or curiosity.”
Context matters, he argues. The key isn’t the habit itself, but creating the environment needed for it to flourish.
And there is the task, dear reader, be you a parent a teacher or a manager or a leader. I’ll be presenting at at least one conference on the topic of ‘Agency at Work: why you should worry if your staff are hard-working and docile’ in the coming months. Contact me for details.