Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (Duckworth)

Duckworth needed to write this. It was time to get off the TED stage and offer her research in a sustained argument. (I do wish she had decided who she was writing for. At times, this book comes off as a  self-help manual, a psychological text, advice to parents, advice to educators – all overlapping audiences, to be sure, but the shifts can cause whiplash. Blank space on the page is not the same as a transition.)

There’s not a lot to argue with here. Indeed, Duckworth ducks any points of contention. Though she does quote Tiger Mom Amy Chua, she does not even raise the question of their shared cultural background. More importantly, though, she does not address the criticism that her argument about grit is a kind of “bootstraps” argument (credit to my co-teacher for that comparison). In short, she puts the burden on the individual person, family, community and again, does not even consider the notion that a person can have all the grit s/he wants, but if the system (education, employment, etc.) is deliberately rigged against them, then grit only produces the exceptional individuals which, in turn, makes some offer a form of the “Well, if Oprah can do it” argument.

I don’t mean to be too harsh. This is a useful book. Pete Carroll proves to be an entertaining and recurring character. My copy is well-marked and, I’m sure, will be well-used. But I hope it’s Part I. There’s more work to do here. But given her argument amount grit, I suspect Duckworth will stick with it.



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