robertogreco + angeladuckworth + growthmindset   1

The perils of “Growth Mindset” education: Why we’re trying to fix our kids when we should be fixing the system -
"Having spent a few decades watching one idea after another light up the night sky and then flame out — in the field of education and in the culture at large — I realize this pattern often has less to do with the original (promising) idea than with the way it has been oversimplified and poorly implemented. Thus, I initially thought it was unfair to blame Dweck for wince-worthy attempts to sell her growth mindset as a panacea and to give it a conservative spin. Perhaps her message had been distorted by the sort of people who love to complain about grade inflation, trophies for showing up, and the inflated self-esteem of “these kids today.” In the late 1990s, for example, right-wing media personality John Stossel snapped up a paper of Dweck’s about praise, portraying it as an overdue endorsement of the value of old-fashioned toil — just what was needed in an era of “protecting kids from failure.” Their scores stink but they feel good about themselves anyway — and here’s a study that proves “excellence comes from effort”!

This sort of attack on spoiled kids and permissive (or excessive) parenting is nothing new — and most of its claims dissolve on close inspection. Alas, Dweck not only has failed to speak out against, or distance herself from, this tendentious use of her ideas but has put a similar spin on them herself. She has allied herself with gritmeister Angela Duckworth and made Stossel-like pronouncements about the underappreciated value of hard work and the perils of making things too easy for kids, pronouncements that wouldn’t be out of place at the Republican National Convention or in a small-town Sunday sermon. Indeed, Dweck has endorsed a larger conservative narrative, claiming that “the self-esteem movement led parents to think they could hand their children self-esteem on a silver platter by telling them how smart and talented they are.” (Of course, most purveyors of that narrative would be just as contemptuous of praising kids for how hard they’d tried, which is what Dweck recommends.)

Moreover, as far as I can tell, she has never criticized a fix-the-kid, ignore-the-structure mentality or raised concerns about the “bunch o’ facts” traditionalism in schools. Along with many other education critics, I’d argue that the appropriate student response to much of what’s assigned isn’t “By golly, with enough effort, I can do this!” but “Why the hell should anyone have to do this?” Dweck, like Duckworth, is conspicuously absent from the ranks of those critics.

It isn’t entirely coincidental that someone who is basically telling us that attitudes matter more than structures, or that persistence is a good in itself, has also bought into a conservative social critique. But why have so many educators who don’t share that sensibility endorsed a focus on mindset (or grit) whose premises and implications they’d likely find troubling on reflection?

I’m not suggesting we go back to promoting an innate, fixed, “entity” theory of intelligence and talent, which, as Dweck points out, can leave people feeling helpless and inclined to give up. But the real alternative to that isn’t a different attitude about oneself; it’s a willingness to go beyond individual attitudes, to realize that no mindset is a magic elixir that can dissolve the toxicity of structural arrangements. Until those arrangements have been changed, mindset will get you only so far. And too much focus on mindset discourages us from making such changes."
alfiekohn  grit  motivation  education  growthmindset  caroldweck  angeladuckworth  parenting  children  schools  fads  praise  effort 
august 2015 by robertogreco

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