Grattitude –> Grit

Interesting column in the Chronicle of Higher Education arguing that our attempts to teach grit are misguided:

decades of research have confirmed that those who can delay gratification have better life outcomes. Good self-control has also been shown to be a key component of grit — perseverance in the face of educational challenges. It’s no wonder, then, that colleges have placed great emphasis on teaching students better self-control.

But the strategies that educators are recommending to build that self-control — a reliance on willpower and executive function to suppress emotions and desires for immediate pleasures — are precisely the wrong ones. Besides having a poor long-term success rate in general, the effectiveness of willpower drops precipitously when people are feeling tired, anxious, or stressed. And, unfortunately, that is exactly how many of today’s students often find themselves.

Research conducted by the American College Health Association shows that almost 54 percent of students report feeling high levels of stress, 60 percent report feeling very lonely, and more than 90 percent report feeling exhausted and overwhelmed at times. Anxiety and depression levels are also on the rise and, as documented in The Chronicle, are taking a tollon students’ well-being.

Efforts to emphasize willpower and executive function to achieve self-control are largely ineffective in helping those students. And evidence shows that those strategies might actually be contributing to the stress, anxiety, and loneliness students feel. [emphases mine]
So, what does work?  Well, this is really cool, because it is something I have been working on in my own life and with my kids– gratitude:

For millennia, what ensured long-term success was cooperation. Strong interpersonal relationships were necessary to thrive. But to be identified as a good partner, a person had to be trustworthy, generous, fair, and diligent. She had to be willing to sacrifice immediate self-interest in order to share with and invest in others. In short, she had to have good character. And what drives such behaviors, emerging research shows, are feelings like gratitude, compassion, and a sense of pride in one’s ability, all of which nudge the mind to accept sacrifices to cooperate with and, thereby, build relationships with others.

When a person feels grateful, he’ll work harder and longer to pay others back as well as pay favors forward. When a person feels compassion, she’ll give time, money, effort, even a shoulder to cry on to another in need. When a person feels proud, she’ll devote more effort to developing skills that others value, and will be admired for it. Although these sacrifices often cost one pleasure or resources in the moment, they enhance long-term success via the greater rewards that come through continued reciprocal interactions with others…

Focusing on feelings like gratitude, compassion, and pride offer something of a double shot when it comes to fostering success. They ease the way to perseverance toward long-term goals, and they simultaneously make people act in ways that strengthen social relationships — something that benefits the health of body and mind and, indirectly, raises educational attainment itself.


The Republican Brand: Sexism

Of the early political science and data-driven takes on the midterms, this is my favorite.  Brian Shaffner follows up his great work on racism and sexism in the 2016 elections with some really interesting data from 2018.  The key finding– just how much sexism has become the Republican brand.  Read the whole post.  But:

In the final graphic, we can see one reason why that support dropped in 2018. Unlike in 2016, the House vote in 2018 was strongly associated with attitudes on sexism. Specifically, in 2018, voters with the least sexist attitudes were about 15 points less likely to vote for the Republican House candidate compared to voters with the most sexist attitudes. And based on the graphic, this appears to have produced a penalty for Republican House candidates. [emphases mine] Only among the most sexist voters do we find similar support for Republican House candidates as we did in 2016. As voters became more likely to reject sexist statements, they became significantly less likely to vote for the Republican in 2018 relative to the 2016 levels of support among voters with those same views on sexism.


Thus, the data here suggest that after two years as president, Trump’s sexism has begun to become part of the Republican Party’s branding for GOP House candidates. As such, in 2018 it became yet another identity-based line of division between Republican and Democratic voters. But, importantly, it also appears to be a branding problem for the Republican Party. Specifically, the evidence here suggests that Republican House candidates did not gain votes among sexist voters, but they lost support among those with less sexist attitudes. This is a pattern that helps to explain the dramatic increase in Democratic voting among college-educated women in 2018. It’s a natural reaction not only to how Republican lawmakers have increasingly embraced Trump’s sexist rhetoric since 2016 (most notably on display during the divisive debate over the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh), but also due to the successful mobilization of women’s rights groups during the past two years. As a result, Republicans appear to have paid a price for their party’s sexism in 2018 and the consequences for them may persist well beyond this election.

I’ve seen some commentary along the lines of, once Trump is gone, things will just revert to how they were pre-Trump.  No, they won’t.  This is Trump’s party now– Republican officeholders have made that clear.  This genie is not going back in the bottle.

%d bloggers like this: