"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Grindstones Make Grit

With Seligman disciple, Angela Duckworth, teaming up with KIPP co-father, Dave Levin, the industrial child psychologists have an able researcher and an experimental site to figure out how to roughen up the grindstone to reduce more urban children to piles of grit. 
At this point, we don't know what the how much grit will be ground out by subjecting children to years of screaming, labeling, threatening, social isolation, impossible demands, humiliation, and constant surveillance, but the corporate charter reform schoolers are hellbent to find out.  
A clip from Vicki Zakrzewski at HuffPo:
. . . .Grit involves two psychological resources: self-discipline and self-control, both of which require the ability to manage emotions and thoughts. Yet the research on grit rarely, if ever, mentions the importance of emotions -- and this is where the dark side of grit comes in.
According to a U.S. Department of Education report on grit, "Persevering in the face of challenges or setbacks to accomplish goals that are extrinsically motivated, unimportant to the student, or in some way inappropriate for the student may potentially induce stress, anxiety, and distraction, and have detrimental impacts on students' long-term retention, conceptual learning, and psychological well-being."
In other words, encouraging or forcing students to be "gritty" may, in some situations, do more harm than good.
Leading emotion researcher Richard Davidson tells us that emotions and cognition work together in a very seamless way to help us persevere on tasks. And yet when the going gets tough and emotions like fear or anger arise, many of us lack the emotional intelligence to know how to deal with those emotions.
Research states* that there are two ways we regulate our difficult emotions: cognitive reappraisal or suppression.
Cognitive reappraisal means that we reframe the situation that caused the negative emotion. For example, a student who does poorly on a test may reframe the situation as an opportunity to learn from mistakes and improve. People who use this method generally have more positive emotions, closer relationships, and overall well-being.
Emotion suppression means just that: pushing away rather than dealing with difficult thoughts and emotions. Long term, this method of emotion regulation can lead to higher levels of negative emotions, anxiety, and depression. People who regularly suppress their emotions also have fewer close relationships and social support. And, pertinent to education, researchers have found that emotional suppression is higher amongst adolescents than adults.
This forces us to ask the question: Are students who demonstrate high levels of grit --particularly when pressured by parents and teachers -- dealing with their emotions in a positive or negative way? And what about students with a history of complex trauma, who may use emotional suppression as a method of survival? What happens when schools grade them on their ability to push through their personal challenges to succeed academically without giving them the resources for how to do that? The research on grit does not provide any answers yet, especially considering that the majority of studies have only been conducted with high-performing students at elite schools.

It is up to parents and teachers to help students find healthy ways to manage their emotions, so that this potential dark side of grit does not rear its ugly head. . . .

1 comment:

  1. From a child's perspective, depression, anger or frustration from failure often takes the form of behaviors atypical of an adult's response to these emotions. Children with and without disabilities will chronically avoid difficult tasks. These avoidance behaviors often appear when children begin acting out in class, fighting & aggression towards adults and peers, and/or school phobias. As children experience more & more pressure to perform, such behaviors escalate and can result in unnecessary medication trials, excessive punishment by schools &/or parents, suspensions, and expulsions.
    Dilettantes are making critical education recommendations without considering the consequences of their dumb dogma. Who will hold them accountable after we've lost a generation of children?