Document Type

Continuing the Conversation


The character trait "grit" is a much-discussed and debated topic, both among education researchers and in public forums. Employing longitudinal discourse analysis, this paper examines the history of grit over more than a century, paying special attention to the ways in which adults have attempted to inculcate it in children. The author finds that current discussion of grit’s salience for the education of disadvantaged students ignores the rich historical context of a long-sought trait, which in fact has usually been the focus of anxiety from middle and upper-class parents and educators. Grit functions as a proxy for a type of character-building that privilege prevents. When poor children have appeared in this discourse, they are not the problem but rather the romanticized solution. A similar pattern is emerging today.