The book is drawing its share of mixed and negative reviews for superficiality bordering on pop psychology, for its narrow conception of character, for its focus on individual personality traits over social and economic factors, and for problems with methodology. Most of these characteristics were evident in Professor Duckworth's work long before the publication of her book, but it seems that they got amplified as she (and most likely her editor) prepared her book for a general audience.
Given the number of mixed to negative reviews, it would seem that the opinion-makers are finally countering their original enthusiasm for grit. The ledger is balanced. Those of us with concerns about grit can relax.
Well, no. The meteoric rise of grit reveals troubling problems in the formation of our public discourse about education. I and many others have written about our policy maker's culpability in the formation of this discourse, but here I'd like to consider another dimension of the circumstances that give rise to phenomena like the one we’re witnessing with grit.
The situation I just described leads to a small and closed circle of voices. The concept of grit got the huge attention it did because it was seen as a way to help poor kids persevere in school and achieve their way out of poverty. When the journalists and other writers I mention above are astute enough to question such claims and want to underscore the challenges of poverty, they will find via their search engines trending books and reports on education and poverty that suffer from the same one-dimensional and hot-topic focus as the treatments of psychological traits and character education. So we end up with a constrained, sometimes problematic, concept of poverty used to counter a constrained, sometimes problematic, concept of character.
I'm not sure how we get out of this mess, though I've been thinking a lot about it lately. I'll post those thoughts as soon as I can tame them into coherence.