They blamed students who lacked “grit,” teachers who sought tenure, and parents who knew too much. They declared school funding isn’t the problem, an elected school board is an obstacle, and philanthropists know best.
They published self-fulfilling prophecies connecting zip-coded school ratings, teacher performance scores, and real estate values. They viewed Brown v. Board as skin-deep and sentimental, instead of an essential mandate for democracy.
They implied “critical thinking” was possible without the Humanities, that STEM alone makes us vocationally relevant, and that “coding” should replace recess time. They cut teacher pay, lowered employment qualifications, and peddled the myth anyone can teach.
They instructed critics to look past poverty, inequality, residential segregation, mass incarceration, homelessness, and college debt to focus on a few heartwarming (and yes, legitimate) stories of student resilience and pluck.
They designed education conferences on “data-driven instruction,” “rigorous assessment,” and “differentiated learning” but showed little patience for studies that correlate student performance with poverty, trauma, a school-to-prison pipeline, and the decimation of community schools.
In the U.S., we have become so accepting of the fact that poverty is not a symptom of a grossly unequal economy, or the result of numerous systemic failures, or the product of years of trickle-down economics, but instead, that the only thing standing between a poor person and the life of their dreams is their own decisions, their own choices, and their own failures.
The politics of resentment frames in terms of deficit ideology. Reframe from deficit to structural ideology.
Mindset interventions have gained traction in recent years because they’re intuitive and marketable. The idea that confidence facilitates success is accessible and, as a result, it is incorporated into many programs designed to support students. Unfortunately, programs advertised to promote a growth mindset in students are often poorly developed, ineffective, or lack empirical support.
The notion that a growth mindset is enough to inspire success in students is also problematic, in that it disregards powerful circumstantial features of students’ in-school experiences, such as nutrition, poverty, instructional quality, psychosocial stress, external pressures, abuse, etc. Although future research may serve to disentangle the components of certain growth mindset programs that are effective and help to eliminate pieces that are not, perhaps the abundant resources devoted to growth mindset program development and research would be more appropriately applied to other efforts to improve in-school instructional quality and social-emotional supports.
I updated “Books that influenced my views on education and learning ” with some new books.
- When Grit Isn’t Enough: A High School Principal Examines How Poverty and Inequality Thwart the College-for-All Promise by Linda Nathan
- The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies by Doug Belshaw
- Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor by Virginia Eubanks
- Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American Dream by Sara Goldrick-Rab