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Is ‘Grit’ Really Newsworthy?

By Walt Gardner — June 26, 2017 1 min read

It always amazes me how easily the public embraces an old idea that is given a new name (“Is There Anything Grit Can’t Do?” The Wall Street Journal, Jun. 24). I’m referring now to “grit,” which its popularizer Angela Lee Duckworth defines as “the tendency to pursue long-term goals with passion and persistence.”

Duckworth has become a celebrity as a result of her bestselling book about the subject. When I was in school, the term was “conscientiousness.” I find it hard to understand the distinction between the two words. I agree with her that the ability to persevere is indispensable for success. It often - but not always - is as important as IQ and talent. But we’ve known about grit for decades. Why is it now suddenly in the limelight?

I don’t mean to diminish Duckworth’s contribution. Instead, I call into question the lavish praise heaped upon a concept that has been around seemingly forever. I think it’s evidence of our eagerness to find a magic bullet for achievement in school and in life. I expect to see similar attention paid to reworkings of other age-old concepts.

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