Why It’s So Hard to Escape the Narrative of ‘Grit’ in Education

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It’s still popular to prize students who demonstrate “grit,” who overcome tough odds to become successful. It’s part of a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” ethos embedded in American mythology.

But that narrative can work against efforts of educational equity, putting the onus on students to achieve, no matter what systemic obstacles are in their way.

A new book by Alissa Quart called “Bootstrapped: Liberating Ourselves from the American Dream,” looks at why narratives of self-reliance—even in ones in children’s literature like “Little House on the Prairie”—are so hard to shake. And she proposes more community-minded alternatives that could improve educational equity.

This week’s episode is a bonus installment of our Bootstraps podcast series that focused on equity more broadly. We’re stepping back to review the key themes of the first season of the series, and look at what’s changed since we reported some of the controversies we dug into.

The biggest development happened in the past few months, with the debate of a controversial change to the admissions system at the best-ranked public high school in the country, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, or TJ, right outside of Washington, D.C. Since that episode about TJ ran last year, a lawsuit over the new admissions system has gone all the way to the Supreme Court—and we let you know what action the court took.

Listen to the episode of the EdSurge Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Overcast, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever you listen to podcasts, or use the player on this page.