Speak not to me of "Grit"

Is this the best descriptor of students?

Is this the best descriptor of students?

I've noticed that my twitter feed seems to be full of "grit" these days. Some cursory research seems to suggest that "grit" is a hot new thing in education circles (twitter is many things, including the place where the hot new education things are found). A bit more digging indicates that "grit" is something we want in our students. Fine. Just one small problem:

I don't think "grit" is a real thing.

I'm not suggesting that the educators a who are singing gritty praises are making it up. Instead, I think the term is an imprecise descriptor for a somewhat-allied collection of several different character traits, among them perseverance, a desire to learn, and a willingness to try hard things. These are all good things for students to have. I'll suggest that they are so desirable, that we should strongly consider considering each one on its own merits, rather than lumping them all together under a word that was originally used to describe sand before being appropriated by the manifest destiny ethic of 19th century American culture.

An argument could be made that my critique of grit could be levied against many of the other terms that are used in education circles. Certainly it could. I've written previously about my sentiments on the use of a particularly notorious one. Admittedly, I've got a bit of a bias here. Generally speaking, I like more precision in my language than less. If we want to talk about something, let's talk about it. Let's not try to find some shiny new language coat for a concept that has been around forever. There's no need. Sometimes, it's just plain silly. Other times we run the risk of obscuring an opportunity to have a common understanding of a concept (one can imagine thirty different educators providing thirty different definitions of "grit").

To be clear, I mean no offense to the grit-enthusiasts out there. If the concept is useful for you, then keep on keepin' on. If thinking about the gravelly virtues of your students gets you pumped up about your teaching, then the term is worth the cost of admission. But I have no such use. And at the end of the day, when "grit" has gone the way of the endless series of shiny new educational jargon, I'll still be over here trying to get us to use precise words to describe precise things.