To the Editor:
A recent blog post (Digital Education blog, www.edweek.org, Jan. 24, 2015) presented a cynical perspective on an important life skill. Believe it or not, some folks think fostering grit is lowering expectations for students or failing to appreciate the obstacles they face. While there are some who may misunderstand or misapply the teaching of grit, it’s wrong to assume that these misapplications are representative of grit’s true purpose: to help all students learn to succeed in the real world.
As a school leader who has sought to engender grit in my students—and even written a book on the topic—I’m surprised this logical and powerful idea has become a lightning rod. I believe fully that each student, regardless of background, must develop grit and perseverance to grow into a successful adult.
Few important goals in life are achieved on the first try. Every student will need to productively and creatively confront roadblocks. In fact, the kids who go from success to success need grit just as much as students who are always challenged because students who are typically successful are so unaccustomed to responding to failure.
In his classic book Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman said, “One of psychology’s open secrets is the relative inability of grades, IQ, or SAT scores, despite their popular mystique, to predict unerringly who will succeed in life.” He continues, “At best, IQ contributes about 20 percent of the factors that determine life success, which leaves 80 percent to other forces.” Grit is an important part of those other forces.
I believe grit is one necessary part of a well-rounded education—one that supports each child’s physical and emotional well-being, in addition to academics. I hope many other educators like myself will continue to grow a generation of resilient students who develop into creative and successful adults.
Thomas R. Hoerr
Head of School
New City School
St. Louis, Mo.
A version of this article appeared in the February 18, 2015 edition of Education Week as ‘Grit’ Helps Everyone Gain Real-World Success