A Tale of Character and Grit

I read two interesting books this week: David Brook’s The Road to Character and Angela Duckworth’s Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. Brooks argues that we should look more towards how we want to be remembered in a eulogy (what he calls “eulogy virtues”) rather than constantly being consumed by how to make our resume better (what he calls “resume virtues”). Who doesn’t need that reminder? He has a series of profiles, and I think the one that struck me as the most profound was Dorothy Day’s. Of course having attended Catholic school my entire life I knew who she was as the founder of the Catholic Worker movement but had forgotten much else. I admit that while I was reading this book I was not thinking as an educator (what can schools do to create these “virtues” in children?) and thinking more like a parent (what values am I shaping in my children?). I certainly know the values that my father taught me about service which shaped my own career path.

Now my mother, she was all about toughness. So it seemed fitting that the day before Mother’s Day and the next book I read was Angela Duckworth’s book. In it, she argues that increasing a person’s grit level is possible and the three secret ingredients are: interest, practice and purpose. I had the whole family take her grit test and ironically my husband scored a perfect score. It shouldn’t have surprised me since he was an athlete that at one point was training for the Olympics. I admit that after reading the book I was also thinking as a parent not an educator. It wasn’t about what schools should do to create more grit (Angela has a solution for that though and I am proud to say we supported that work at the Foundation) but what I could do as a parent to ensure that my children grew up with the qualities needed to be gritty. I write a lot about schools and their role in shaping our children’s lives but all teachers will tell you—parents play an even more important role, especially in terms of building character and grit.