The comments on this blog are often a source of enormous common sense. How can you teach what you can’t define?


Reader Ponderosa writes in response to the debate about teaching grit:



The mania for teaching grit exposes a broader problem in American education. We’ve developed this habit of identifying some valuable abstract quality –grit, critical thinking, problem solving ability –and assume: a. that it’s teachable; and b. that we really know how to teach it, without any strong evidence that these are true. Then we devise programs that purport to teach these things and everyone assumes, simply because they’re called “Teaching Grit” or “Teaching Critical Thinking” that they actually are doing these things. Look, we know how to teach geography and chemistry and Spanish. There is no doubt about this. But once we get beyond teaching concrete knowledge, we’re in fog –where charlatans frolic because nobody really knows what’s going on and, while nobody can say for sure that what they prescribe does work, nobody can say for sure it doesn’t work either. It’s hard to discredit the charlatans when they’re dealing with such fuzzy and etherial stuff. That’s why charlatans still abound in the realm of religion. My view: let’s teach the concrete stuff, the stuff we KNOW we can teach, with creativity and joy and rigor. I bet the other stuff will fall into place. But if we just try to teach the fuzzy and etherial stuff, with just a haphazard smattering of the concrete stuff, we risk not giving kids much of anything real in their school years.