Teachers love buzzwords.
The problem with buzzwords in education (or any field for that matter), is that they often oversimplify complex concepts. Sure, buzzwords make for a great soundbite, but in the process, they trivialize. They dumb down. Growth mindset, the belief that one can improve any aspect of themselves through effort and determination, is one of those buzzwords.
Carol Dweck’s book was written almost ten years, but has slowly gained momentum in influencing educators and seems to have struck a chord with them. Maybe it’s the optimistic nature of the philosophy. Maybe it’s the politics of academia. Who knows why one book gains prominence over another and enters the collective consciousness.
Mindset is a 288 page book that could probably be reduced to a few pages. Much of the book consists of anecdotes about famous people and how they achieved success through adopting a growth mindset. Many seem to view growth mindset as if it’s a revelation about human nature. Something bold and new. Yet long before her book was published and Dweck’s psychology become popular teacher jargon, Churchill managed to express it in one sentence: “Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential.” Think we’d all agree Churchill knew a thing or two about effort. He walked the walk.
The growth mindset outlined in Dweck’s book has become a buzzword that frequently gets thrown around in conversations and Twitter chats. Teachers love to talk about it. Many praise it as if it’s the be-all and end-all; a perfect solution to what ails education. It seems wherever you look on social media, teachers are waxing philosophical on the need for students to adopt this growth mindset and do away with a limiting fixed mindset. I’m wondering how many teachers have actually read the book? While I’m all for positive change and improving oneself, the whole thing seems a bit too much like feel good pop psychology. Isn’t it just common sense? Isn’t it kind of obvious? Maybe I’m missing something. I find her distinction between fixed and growth too constrictive. Human psychology is never this simple. People can’t be easily defined and boxed into neatly delineated categories. It’s not a case of either/or.
Let’s not reduce human potential to a buzzword.