Grit: A Definition Approach
Grit is a term that is commonly used to describe a person’s character. It can be used to define men, women, children, ect. This begs the question; what is grit? How do people develop it? These are questions that do not have one clear answer. They depend heavily on the population in which you are focused on and the context of the situation. In regard to the underprivileged population, grit in young people ranging from elementary school to college will be defined. Understanding this relationship between grit and predetermined influences will help to more clearly illustrate how grit directly correlates to success.
“Without grit, talent may be nothing more than unmet potential,” Caren Baruch-Feldman, PhD and author of The Grit Guide For Teens explains. “Grit is important because it is a driver of achievement and success, independent of and beyond what talent and intelligence contribute.” Grit is a character trait that is acquired; not learned. The experiences a young person has in their early years are likely to determine whether or not they develop grit. A student exhibiting such a trait will not allow predetermined conditions or circumstances to hinder their performance. For example, working long hours, unfavorable studying environment, low household income, and learning disabilities are all factors that may discourage a student without grit. Grit does not diminish over time. In college, the workplace, and for the years to come, this individual will continue to be a diligent, hard worker. A student with the type of grit we are analyzing will overcome any challenges they may face to achieve success in all aspects of life.
When studying this topic, it’s important to mention that grit does not directly correlate to high grades and vice versa. In fact, many students who make these academic achievements lack grit the most. Commonly, it’s the average students or those who struggle with their studies who must adapt grit as a mechanism. The naturally gifted students often achieve these high grades without little to any effort being applied. Students with learning disabilities such as ADHD, dyslexia, ect are more likely to be perserent, as the result of a more challenging educational career. Infact, a study conducted by the Hamilton Institute reports a significant correlation between high grade point average and self determination in students with learning disabilities. Overcoming adversities like this as a teen will only make the individual that much more prepared for the future. When defining grit in this context, it is often associated with those who fit the underdog role opposed to the gleaming, perfect, straight-a student.
The term grit is most commonly associated with overcoming obstacles and unfortunate circumstances. When referring to students, an individual growing up in a stable household is less likely to develop grit since they face less adversity. Those who grow up in poverty, a broken home, single parent home, or an abusive home must expel much more effort just to accomplish that of kids from stable homes. Also, students in these households commonly don’t have access to adequate tutoring, technology, or necessary school supplies. In addition to this, transportation and other necessities like proper nutrition are often unavailable. This alone demands the individual to be perseverent. The Child Fund reports that 30% of children raised in poverty will not finish high school. Although some may view this statistic as an indication of laziness, it is rather a demonstration of true grit among the majority. The 70% of students who do receive a diploma worked exceptionally hard to do so.
In 2016, many low income schools across the country began installing programs that taught grit to their elementary students. “Here, though, is the fundamental problem with the notion that the importance of grit has to do with bettering the chances of disadvantaged students. Children raised in poverty display ample amounts of grit every day, and they don’t need more of it in school,” Ethan Ris, doctoral candidate in education at Stanford University expresses. Students from these lower income areas face challenges that many others never will. When these elementary students become young adults, the grit they’ve developed will continue to aid them in the workplace and beyond. Meanwhile, the higher income students most likely won’t have the same crucial experience.
In addition to challenges at home, many students from underprivileged communities work during the school year. These students must learn how to balance school and a job while maintaining other aspects of their life. A survey of students at the Manchester Metropolitan University demonstrated that a larger population of students are working while in school than ever before. Almost twice the amount of lower class high school students are working while attending school than upper class high school students. Although these students do believe their grades would be a little higher if they weren’t working, they are being benefited in the long run. “Nevertheless, students highlight the benefits of working, which are not only monetary but include the development of skills, greater understanding of the world of business and an increase in confidence, all of which are advantageous to their studies, both at the present time and in the future,” Susan Curtis & Najah Shani with the Journal of Further and Higher Education report. Not only will these skills help students develop and integrate grit into their lives, they will be better prepared for their future work environment.
As we consider all the possible meanings of a word, it’s evident that context is always important. Grit in athletes versus business professionals will take completely different forms. Likewise, grit instilled in students is very specific. These individuals learn, through their experiences, the magnitude of their actions and decisions. More specifically, the students that overcome challenges while pursuing their education are most likely to develop the kind of grit that will aid them through adulthood. This is the same grit that will allow Alex to disprove the stigma around impoverished children and inspire others to do the same.
Strauss, Valerie. “The Problem with Teaching ‘Grit’ to Poor Kids? They Already Have It. Here’s What They Really Need.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 18 Apr. 2019, http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2016/05/10/the-problem-with-teaching-grit-to-poor-kids-they-already-have-it-heres-what-they-really-need/.
Cupitt, Cathy, and N. Golshan. “[PDF] Participation in Higher Education Online: Demographics, Motivators, and Grit: Semantic Scholar.” [PDF] Participation in Higher Education Online: Demographics, Motivators, and Grit | Semantic Scholar, 1 Jan. 1970, http://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Participation-in-higher-education-online:-and-grit-Cupitt-Golshan/2887cbbe91f91da12f8c67b44da3fc01009b0d56.