Category Archives: inequality

Grit, a key to success?

I have watched this TED talk during weekend for the second time when I was browsing TED to find a good talk for my free time. In this talk, Professor Duckworth of University of Pennsylvania presented her research about the key success in learning and education. The idea of her PhD dissertation came to her mind when she was a teacher in New York public school for seven grader in mathematics. She learned that the thing matters in success of her students is beyond their IQ and their talent. She later on called that thing as “grit”.  Dr Duckworth’s research is looking at learning from psychological and motivational perspective. Through her research in various contexts, she finds out that one characteristic is a significant predictor of success which she called it grit. Grit, as she defined, is a motivation, passion, and perseverance for a long term goals.  Grit means working hard to get future into the reality. She describes grit as a point of view of “life as a marathon not sprint. ” Her research currently is to find new ways to make people specially kids to be gritter.

As a graduate student interested in education issues and working on inequality in education achievement, I think her idea is a novel approach to think about learning. In my research I try to measure inequality of opportunity in education outcome. I try to decompose the effect of various circumstances such as gender, parental education, socio-economic background of the student, and his/her community characteristics from his/her effort/luck. The idea is, your outcome should only be depend on your effort and not your circumstances such as your race or gender. The index I have calculated is called  inequality of opportunity (IOP) in education. Using Dr. Duckworth terminology, grit is a characteristic of a kid which is under her control, the same as effort, and as a result it is not part of IOP index. My point is, our current education system is not a system which is encouraging kids to be gritty. In fact in a system which your success measures with standard test scores and your grades for midterms and final tests, getting bad score in one test, can easily kill your motivation and grit. We live in a world that we need to have solid motivation for a long term to obtain our goals. In this world, it is important for every person to empower herself not to be disappointed very easily, however, neither in school nor in college, kids have no chance to learn about motivation and grit. We trained our kids to care about their test scores. If you got 95 in a course, you would call successful. While getting 95 is not necessarily means you are a gritty and motivated person. Maybe you have good IQ and could learn stuff very easily but without strengthening your passion, your perseverance for a long term goals, and in one word, without being gritty, could you be successful in long term both in your life and in your career? It seems the answer is “no” and unfortunately our education system not only teach to be gritty, it sometimes kills our motivation too.


In addition to this issue, I think about motivation and grit as a tool to help students who leave behind to improve their situation and outcomes. My idea is, if in a community race or gender (for instance being female and being black) has a great influence on a student education outcome, training female students or ethnic minority students to be grittier and be self-motivated can help them to improve their learning and education outcome and decrease the gap in their outcome with other students. In this view, encouraging kids to be passionate about their  goals can decrease IOP in education outcome.



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Filed under education, gedivt, inequality, Video

Inequality and racism: How economic improvement can be helpful?

Today I have watched this video where Professor Chetty, Professor of Economics at Harvard explains how disadvantaged neighborhood amplify racial inequality. In my microaggression post, I asked the following question: why ethnic minority group or other groups who faced discrimination and microaggression do the same acts although they understand the bitterness of discrimination?

After watching that interview, I think maybe inequality and economic situation can explain part of the answer of the above question. Professor Chetty said in his interview, which is based on his recent paper, that kids who grow up in less advantaged neighborhood are less likely to go to college, find a decent job, and live in a better situation compare to their parents. His research is based on the “moving opportunity experiment” where several randomly selected households in less advantaged and poor neighborhood got “housing voucher” to move to better neighborhoods. The outcome of kids who move with their counterparts who do not have such opportunities reveals some shocking facts in about US society: the place you grew up is matter a lot. In economic literature, this fact is called as “inequality of opportunity (IOP).” Professor Chetty continued that this fact exacerbates situation of the African-american kids much than whites since there is a gap between black and white and as a result growing up in bad neighborhood makes this gap even worse. This fact, according to him, will be translated as racial inequality. As we all know, racial inequality can explain part of racism in society.

We all here some comments from even ordinary people, who think that they are not racist, that look, black people are troublesome, the crime rate is higher among black, or there are relatively more black people in jail compared with whites. These comments are all racist even though the teller of them don’t mind. Racial inequality and higher IOP among black is the main cause of those facts and if we want to solve the problem, we have to know and understand the cause of an issue rather than its consequences.

In my view, based on professor Chetty’s research, disadvantaged neighborhood amplifies racial inequality. Those african-american kids grow up in less advantaged and poor neighborhood don’t have any opportunity to learn about discrimination. They don’t have any good role model. They could not imagine to have a good career in future and they never learn about microaggression and this kind of stuff even thought they are the victims of racial inequality and discriminatory behaviors. So although, they are victims of microaggression behaviors, they may reproduce discriminatory behaviors facing with other minority groups and this cycle continues!

In conclusion, I think other than spreading knowledge about these issues (discrimination, racism, microaggression, ….) , we need think deeply about the main problem of the US society: Inequality of Opportunity. I think reduction of racial gap, income inequality, and gender gap can also be even more helpful to alleviate the microaggression problem.

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Filed under Diversity, inequality