This is a re-blog post originally posted by Lou Mycroft and published with kind permission.
The original post can be found here.
One of the most dismaying things about political spin is how it sucks the good out of concepts that should inspire. As the sector – or at least those of its workforce who are not struggling to achieve a living wage on zero-hours contracts – approaches the season of digestive fortitude, the notion of resilience (to most minds, a good thing) is being kicked around in no-mans-land like a political football. On both sides of the Atlantic, resilience (or ‘grit’) has been claimed by neo-liberal Grinches as a key player in their attempt to deny that where you were born has anything to do with your capacity to succeed.
Resilience as a cornerstone of meritocracy has come as a bit of a surprise to those of us who work day in, day out to overcome our own disadvantages, never mind the graft we put into helping our students overcome theirs. We might have thought it was necessary to teach resilience, in order to overcome the evils of inequality, had The Grinch not informed us that our own personal levels of grit were the only measure of whether we succeeded, or not.
On its own, this would be laughable, had it not become clear recently that the backlash against all this pathetically obvious manipulation was leaving us in danger of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Sadly, The Grinch knows that we live in a world of binary thinking. Suddenly the counter-narrative leaves resilience out in the seasonal cold; unmasked as an enemy agent. If we teach resilience, the argument goes, we are saying to our students (and tutors) that their socio-economic status has nothing to do with their circumstances, that the only thing stopping them succeeding is their own personal lack of grit. We are shifting the blame.
Well hang on a minute. What’s just happened here is that The Grinch has stolen something really good in teaching and learning and we have just let him! What’s that about? And where does it end? Are we going to let The Grinch steal empowerment too, and self-awareness and critical education and all the other life-changing things that education could – and should – be about? Are we just going to give in?
Let’s not. Let’s demand back what is rightfully ours. We know how inequality works. We know that people born in certain areas have less hope, less agency, less self-belief, less sense of entitlement (as well as less money, less good health, less life years) than those born to privilege (in all its manifestations). And we know that determination (grit, resilience) borne of education can make a difference to the hand life has dealt us, not only for individuals but through a process of critical education, for communities too. We can teach people to transgress the limitations The Grinch puts on them. We can change the world. But not if we give away our greatest gifts to those who want to steal the little we have. Let’s storm the mountain and take resilience back.