Friday 1 February 2019
Where to start? Because, quite frankly, I’d put money on what I’m about to write p!ssing someone off. Oddly enough, I don’t see why you’d be p!ssed off with what I’m about to write unless you were the actual person who came up with this stuff. Oh well, here goes . . .
There, I wrote it. It’s out in the open. I’m not going to beat about the bush; I’m going to jump right in with both feet. I’m f*$king sick of this sh!t. If one more person starts a conversation with me about growth mindset this or growth mindset that, I’m going to grow them right in the mindset. Y’see, amongst some of my circles, be they SoMe circles or real life circles or geometric circles, there are a few people who have jumped headlong onto the growth mindset bandwagon. Maybe they’ve read an article here or there, or they Googled it and read up on Wikipedia about it, I don’t know, but they’re spruiking growth mindset like there’s no tomorrow.
Let me get down to brass tacks. With all due respect to Professor Carol Dweck, it’s not the psychological theory that I have an issue with. I’ve often discussed brain plasticity and neurological functioning with my learned chiropractor. She has a lot of knowledge about brain plasticity, neurological functions, how the brain works, how it can compensate when brain injury occurs, you name it and she can discuss it with you. I love having those conversations with her because it often informs my theories and roles as an educator. The theory I can live with. The theory I understand.
What I don’t deal with particularly well are the “resources” that are produced to assist educators to teach this mindset to kids. What a crock of sh!t! Seriously. The Growth Mindset Alphabet *insert vomitty face and sound here* poster or whatever they want to call it, amongst other “resources” sh!ts me to tears. Not to mention the lesson plans to teach growth mindset, the books for you to read all about it in layman’s terms, the parent guides, and the guides to “foster a positive attitude towards learning”. F*$k off! Really? Are we seriously at the point where it is a requirement of teaching that we show students how to have a positive attitude towards learning? Do we really need to spoon feed them this stuff?
I have a theory about how we got to this point. Don’t look so surprised. You know I always have a theory. So, here’s how I think it came to pass that we need to pander to kids and teach them positive attitudes towards learning. At some point in the late 90s or early 2000s, some genius (written with a huge dose of sarcasm) decided that every kid needed a ribbon or stick or certificate of participation for doing something that they should have been doing anyway but they probably chucked a hissy fit over having to do. The solution? Give them a pat on the back for doing it. ‘Oh hey, you wrote your name on the piece of paper that I instructed everyone to write their name on. Good job. Here’s a sticker and a pat on the back.’ We rewarded kids for every-f*$king-thing, even if no reward was necessary. ‘Oh hey, that kid over there came first in the running race, that other kid in red came second, and the kid with the baseball cap came third. You don’t get a prize because you didn’t come first, second or third. Oh crap, you’re crying. Why are you crying? Because you didn’t get a ribbon? Okay, here’s a ribbon for joining in the race even though it was a requirement of the sport lesson and you didn’t come anywhere of any great importance.’
We crippled our kids so they expect a prize or reward for doing everything. ‘Hey miss, I’ve finished the worksheet you told us to do. What do I get for it? Can I have a sticker? Do I get a prize from the prize box?’ We took away their ability to be intrinsically motivated to do things, to learn, to succeed. Now, we’re trying to solve that problem, to compensate for previous f*$k ups, and we’re teaching them to have a growth mindset not a fixed mindset. Shut the f*$k up. And better yet, there are businesses and corporations who are looking at how to develop growth mindset amongst their employees. The theory’s found its way into the corporate world now. Fan-f*$king-tastic.
But here’s the best bit: someone is making big $$ off of all of the “resources” that are being created to help teach growth mindset. I wonder if Professor Carol Dweck is getting a cut of any of that money? I bet she’s not. She’s the one who did the study, did the hard work, and some other schleps are making the money.
Get ready to see the Growth Mindset Self-Talk posters in your workplace, spruiking words of wisdom such as ‘Attention and effort determine how much I learn’, ‘I can Be brave and step out of my comfort zone’, ‘How can I build on my strengths?’, ‘Learning is my goal . . . not perfection’, ‘Mistakes help me improve’, and pearlers like ‘XYZ didn’t work I’ll try ABC’ and ‘I don’t know how to do this . . . yet!’ Forgive me, friends from the U.S., for what I’m about to write, but that sh!t is so stereotypically upbeat American. An Aussie wouldn’t say that stuff. An Aussie would tell you to harden up, princess or suck it up and get on with it, or f*$ken grow up, ya muppet.
Again, let me emphasise that it’s not Dweck’s theory that I take issue with. It’s the production of motivational and educational resources for the sole purpose of making money, and it’s the jumping on the bandwagon of the next big thing that p!ss me off. A few years ago we were all about colouring books and mindfulness. Now, it’s growth mindset. Next year, some other thing will crop up and a bunch of influencers and people desperate for the latest greatest thing will haul themselves on that bandwagon. At that point, like mindfulness and colouring books, growth mindset will go the way of all the other fads and phases we’ve encountered in our industries. It will become an easily dismissed, long-forgotten relic that sits in a cupboard somewhere gathering dust.
So, please, don’t come at me with growth mindset this and growth mindset that because you won’t get a growth mindset response. In fact, you probably won’t get a positive or polite response at all. No, you’ll get a fixed response of two of my fingers thrust vertically into the air in the shape of the letter V.
I’m off now to pat myself on the back for writing this post and to give myself a sticker as well. 😉