Sunday, November 15, 2015

Vigor Over Rigor, Wit Over Grit?

A hot term right now in education is rigor.  Here's another one, grit.  Every current researcher, social scientist, data miner, etc. is in on the rigor/grit game.  I buy it.  It makes a lot of sense, especially in the mindset arena. To me, rigor is the effort needed to persevere to pursue a goal even when faced with adversity.  We were cheerleading all over the place, "Rah, rah, rigor, grit, hooray!" Then, I read an article perusing the fact that maybe socioeconomic status is a huge factor in determining the amount of rigor/grit needed and the ability to overcome some extreme circumstances.  That makes rigor unbalanced and difficult to both define and emulate.

A new thought occurred to me.  Really, students need vigor, not rigor and ready for this... wit, not only grit.  To vigorously pursue a goal is both definable and reproducible.  That is what we need for all students regardless of socioeconomic status, ability level, resources, etc.

To pursue a goal with 'vigor' creates the ultimate conditions for success.  Look at the definitions below (from  What do you notice?

1. strictness, severity, or harshness, as in dealing with people.
2. the full or extreme severity of laws, rules, etc.
3. severity of living conditions; hardship; austerity:
the rigor of wartime existence.
4. a severe or harsh act, circumstance, etc.
5. scrupulous or inflexible accuracy or adherence:
the logical rigor of mathematics.
6. severity of weather or climate or an instance of this:
the rigors of winter.
7. Pathology. a sudden coldness, as that preceding certain fevers; chill.
8. Physiology. a state of rigidity in muscle tissues during which they are unable to respond to stimuli due to the coagulation of muscle protein.
9. Obsolete. stiffness or rigidity.
1. active strength or force.
2. healthy physical or mental energy or power; vitality.
3. energetic activity; energy; intensity:
The economic recovery has given the country a new vigor.
4. force of healthy growth in any living matter or organism, as a plant.
5. active or effective force, especially legal validity.
Rigor seems quite negative, painful, and unrewarding.  Vigor seems active, positive, and energetic.   Using one's wits is the street smarts part of learning and growing.

Here is a similar comparison of grit and wit:

2.firmness of character; indomitable spirit; pluck:


1.the keen perception and cleverly apt expression of those connections between ideas that awaken amusement and pleasure.
2.speech or writing showing such perception and expression.
3.a person having or noted for such perception and expression.
4.understanding, intelligence, or sagacity; astuteness.
5.Usually, wits.
-powers of intelligent observation, keen perception, ingenious contrivance, or the like; mental acuity, composure, and resourcefulness:
-using one's wits to get ahead.
-mental faculties; senses.

Grit and wit show the same difference in viewpoint yet moving toward a more growth lens - albeit less dramatic than rigor and vigor. 

This is what we need to instill in our future students.  It's not college and career readiness.  It's LIFE readiness.  These qualities in current and future students will change the systems we now see at "the way things are".  

Maybe it is not impossible to imagine some of these future "problem-finders" (Pink, 2012) to initiate and grow change.  Will it be slow?  Maybe.  But it may happen at rocket speed.  We cannot know until we let go of the antiquated teach a program geared to a test, prep toward the test, test.  Rinse, lather, repeat.  This is not real data.  It is useless data.  

Our movement needs to go to more individualization, a prescription for each child molded through professionals who know child growth and development best. That prescription should be constantly changing as the student changes. Many professionals should be collaborating on each student's needs.  We should be sharing best practices and constantly revisiting our comfort zones. 

It sounds very complicated and more easily said than done.  We have to start somewhere.  And at the moment, we are going in the completely wrong direction, opposite actually. I do also believe that this will require all terms - rigor, vigor, grit, and wit! Undoing this damage will take time. But it should not take the place of moving forward simultaneously. 

Politics needs to give education back to the experts.  After all, no one gets into teaching for the money or the fame!