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Teaching for Hope in the Era of Grit

by Sarah M. Stitzlein - 2018

Background/Context: Grit has quickly become one of the leading educational goals and markers of success upheld by many schools, parents, and education policies. This article intends to give us pause in the rush toward grit by revealing some of its shortcomings, including the implications of its individualist and long-term goal focus which leave systems of injustice in place and place children in a pick-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps ideology.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: This article responds to grit by putting forward a more robust and sustaining educational aim of hope that arises from the work of pragmatist philosophy, especially that of education theorist John Dewey.

Research Design: This analytic essay employs philosophical critique to assess the current emphasis on grit and its implications, then articulates the philosophical concept of pragmatist hope and explain how it overcomes the problems of grit.

Conclusions/Recommendations: The vision of hope put forward in this article is more flexible, social, and political than the popular form of grit, as it is driven to action that improves oneís life and those of other people. The philosophically sophisticated account of hope offered here may be used, at times, to supplement or improve nascent theories of grit, or even supplant them. It suggests alternative ways forward as we seek visions of educational effectiveness that extend beyond test scores and into the lives of children and the future of American democracy.

Education seems to be a necessarily hopeful endeavor insofar as schools are focused on preparing for the future and aim to make that future better than the present. Many see cultivating hope as an important goal of education.1 While one might expect school administrators and parents to be primarily focused on student achievement as the indicator of school success, especially within an age of test-based accountability that tends to overshadow talk of educational aims beyond the test, 83% of superintendents actually believe that getting children to have hope in the future is a marker of school effectiveness, and 77% of parents agree.2 Weve begun to see some schools labeled schools of hope3 and others celebrated for the hope they produce for children and communities as displayed in films like Waiting for Superman (2010) and The Lottery (2010). These images of schooling are accompanied by proclamations that Hope is the essence of teaching, To teach is to be full of hope, and Teaching is . . . in every respect a profession of hope.4

Yet some schools may be coming up short, or perhaps some are unwilling or unable to embrace teaching for hope in light of the penalties they face if they divert attention from tested areas, as only half of students say they are hopeful about their ability to succeed in school or other areas of life.5 Many people tend to regard children as essentially hopeful beings. While we know that youth often offer a refreshing outlook on the world and a faith in great opportunities ahead, we certainly know this is not always the case for all children or in all communities, especially for children who have witnessed or been victims of great suffering. In many cases hope is not inherent in the lives or outlooks of children; rather, developing informed and sustainable hope requires education.

In the midst of background talk of hopeful schools, teaching, and children, emphasis on teaching grit has come to the foreground as another aim of education intended to enable children to pursue their goals and achieve success during and after school. For many parents and citizens, this has been a welcomed shift away from narrow adherence to the particulars of tested subject matter and toward larger issues of life and character. Grit has moved from speculative psychological literature and research studies into school practices and policies from major districts like Baltimore City Public Schools to small schools like Edge Middle School in Texas. Ive witnessed grit on everything from high school sports team t-shirt logos to an elementary principals goal list for the year to a tattoo across the heart of a leading school reformer in my town alone.

In addition to grit being celebrated and implemented in many individual schools, recent federal law (Every Student Succeeds Act) now requires all schools to assess at least one nonacademic measurement. Grit, believed to be measurable, appeals to some schools and states as a worthy choice. Additionally, students taking the National Assessment of Educational Progress will now also be assessed on their grit.6 And even teachers have been studied for their grittiness in order to assess their effectiveness and retention.7 Catching on to the trend, philanthropic education reformers, like the Walton Family Foundation, have now pledged millions of dollars to support the study, teaching, and measurement of grit.8

This article intends to give us pause in the rush toward grit by revealing some of its shortcomings and to put forward a more robust and sustaining educational aim of hope that arises from the work of pragmatist philosophy, especially that of education theorist John Dewey. While many people assume that hope is a commonly understood concept and that people who are hopeful develop and act upon their worldview in similar ways, they may celebrate schools of hope without really discussing what they actually mean by hope. Julian Edgoose has been rightly concerned that The central role of hope in teaching is receiving increasing attention by educational researchers, although not necessarily in a very comprehensive way.9 I aim to intervene into that gap by offering a novel and philosophically sophisticated account of hope, explaining not only what hope is but also how and why it is useful within education, especially as education becomes enmeshed in the discourse of grit. I intend to bring hope out of the background and into focus.

While I do offer a critique of grit by using hope as a foil to reveal some of grits shortcomings and depict its alternatives, my emphasis is on carefully defining hope and doing so in a way that may help us make better informed decisions about picking up grit as a goal or assessment of our students, teachers, and schools. While there are marked differences between the two concepts, my intention is not to construct a problematic dualism between the two, for not only is there some value in having grit, surely there is helpful space between the two where they are informed by one another and crafted into something unique and useful. As such, the new notion of hope I describe may be used, at times, to supplement, refine, or improve nascent theories of grit. Or it may be used to supplant them by suggesting alternative ways forward as we seek visions of educational effectiveness that extend beyond test scores and into the lives of children and the future of American democracy.


To understand grit, including its benefits and drawbacks, I want to begin with a brief summary of its key elements and related aspects of hope, as described by major proponents. It is important to acknowledge that, while developed only relatively recently in psychological studies, grit has been picked up in education literature, practice, and policy in myriad ways, sometimes morphing considerably from the ways in which the original researchers understood it. Some of these adaptations, such as measuring its growth in children to evaluate the quality of schools, have raised new concerns about the focus on grit, causing even leading proponents to issue statements of caution regarding how grit is now being used in schools.10


The most noteworthy contributions to the study of grit have been made by psychologist Angela Duckworth. For her, grit is not just working hard but also staying loyal to ones overarching goal for an extended period of time and through all obstacles that might hinder ones path to the goal.11 That overarching goal is supported by a hierarchy of smaller goals. While one may not stubbornly pursue all of the smaller goals, the overarching goal should be pursued with passion and perseverance. She has explained, What I mean by passion is not just that you have something you care about. What I mean is that you care about that same ultimate goal in an abiding, loyal, steady way.12 Duckworth also appreciates hope insofar as she says it is important at every stage of grit because it helps us persevere as we pursue our goals.13

While other proponents of grit and some school applications understand it to be more narrowly tied to goals that are concerned only with oneself, Duckworth has acknowledged that many of the grittiest people she has studied claim that the purpose behind their passion and perseverance arises from the fact that their overarching goal benefits others.14 She also suggested that grit can help one be more useful to others.15

Using a test originally designed alongside her fellow grit researchers Chris Peterson and Martin Seligman, Duckworth developed a series of questions designed to measure ones level of grit, which she calls the Grit Scale.16 Interestingly, her Grit Scale includes measuring the character traits of grit and optimism, which she defines as the belief that effort will improve ones future.17 Also, she argues that grit can be improved by ones self or by others; in other words, grit can be taught.18 One way to do this it to engage in deliberative practice, which one should do repetitively and as part of ones daily routine until it becomes what most people characteristically think of as a habit.19 Additionally, surrounding oneself with what she calls a gritty culture may enhance the grit of individuals.20 Finally, developing grit is aided by adopting a growth mindset. As defined by researcher Carol Dweck, a growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts.21 People with a growth mindset take the challenge, learn from failure, or continue their effort.22

KIPP charter schools have adopted Duckworths vision of goal-setting grit and now measure each student to determine whether he or she has finished whatever s/he began and has stayed committed to goals.23 Following Duckworth, KIPP pairs the measurement of grit with measurements of self-control, including determining whether the student remained calm even when criticized, was polite to adults, kept temper in check, followed directions, and resisted distractions. This focus and self-control even play out in everyday classroom expectations such as SLANT, a physical way of controlling oneself and staying focused on the teacher.24 Elsewhere, teachers such as Amy Lyon in New Hampshire have crafted grit curricula that bring together perseverance, self-control, and optimism.25 She encourages students to construct their own specific goals that are measurable and then to exhibit self-control in devotedly pursuing them.

Leading the way in the area of positive psychology is C. R. Snyder, who has made significant advances in understanding hope. His work has also been picked up in the study of grit because of the many similarities between how grit advocates understand the two terms. Like Duckworth, Snyder focuses on a long-term future mapped out through goal setting. He emphasizes forming ones own specific goals and pursuing them independently. Snyders goal-setting typically demonstrates little regard for the substance of those goals and their consequences on the well-being of others.26 Once those goals are clearly defined, hope acts as the cognitive willpower and way-power to fulfilling them. Much like grit for Duckworth, Snyders hope moves us forward and increases our agency. Snyder has also developed a Hope Scale, which measures ones cognitive drive and self-confidence. The Hope Scale is primarily focused on ones own agency, without concern for other aspects or people involved in hope, or the impact of ones hoping and goals on other people or the environment.

In similar spirit, educational psychologist Valerie Maholmes ties hope to personal agency and working toward ones goals.27 Hope becomes a form of action and will, reflected in the adage Where theres a will, theres a way.28 Hope is not mere wishful thinking but rather plays out in the development of pathways toward achieving our goals, motivation to act on those goals, and believing that we can be effective in doing so. That cognitive work can produce emotional responses as goals are or are not fulfilled, but the emphasis is on the action and resilience of the mind, demonstrated through adaptation and growth. This accent on the mind is significant, for although few psychologists describe their study of grit or hope this way, grit is often championed as a noncognitive aspect of personality or character by education reformers such as Paul Tough, juxtaposing it to the cognitive work of demonstrating mastery of tested subject matter.29

Another pioneering researcher in the area of positive psychology is Martin Seligman, who focuses primarily on optimism and developing it through cultivating cognitive skills. For Seligman, and later for Duckworth, optimists are those who see defeat as not their fault but rather as a temporary setback that pushes them to try harder, while pessimists see defeat as not only their fault but also likely to endure.30 He continued, Finding temporary and specific causes for misfortune is the art of hope . . . Finding permanent and universal causes for misfortune is the practice of despair.31 This relates to Dwecks growth mindset, which includes having optimistic ways of responding to adversity. Dweck in her account of growth mindset and Duckworth in her account of grit both call for optimistic self-talk to help one persevere through adversity.32 Teachers have operationalized the ideas of all three scholars by helping kids to be optimistic through the use of positive language and focusing on what they can control.33

Relatedly, Harvard physician Jerome Groopman, drawing closely on the work of psychologist Richard Davidson, extends hope from being just a cognitive experience of believing one can have control over the world to being an emotional response that can shape our mental understanding. For Davidson, hope, unlike blind optimism that obscures our vision of the world around us and leads us to only see rosy outcomes, helps us bring reality into sharp focus.34 Unlike trends in the educational implications of grit and hope, he describes their shared feature of resilience, not as springing back and carrying on through dogged persistence, but rather as maintaining positive feelings in the face of struggle.35 Groopman explains that these positive feelings are related to the release of endorphins and enkephalins that block the pain we may experience during physical adversity.

Finally, Paul Stoltz implements ideas about grit in schools, including the High Teach High School in San Diego. He uses grit as an acronym that includes growth (mindset), resilience, instinct, and tenacity. Like other views of grit explored so far, his is goal-directed, though more tied to self-beneficial goals. He described grit as Your capacity to dig deep, to do whatever it takesespecially struggle, sacrifice, even sufferto achieve your most worthy goals.36 While he does claim that good grit entails striving for goals that may help others, the focus should ideally be on oneself and then extend outward to benefit others. In a telling example, he notes exercise as primarily serving oneself but also reducing ones burden on others.37 This reveals a pretty limited understanding of social benefits, where they are merely a reduction of ones personal burden on others rather than a concerted effort to achieve common goods.

Stoltz argued that gritty education is intended to fend off the mass wussification (weakening) of kids worldwidea sort of get-tough approach to education that puts the onus on individual children to better themselves and, thereby, society.38 Ones ability to face and overcome adversity using grit is measured by what he called the adversity quotient.39 Stoltz, Duckworth40, and schools following in their spirit have upheld exemplars of grit, such as Will Smith and Scott Rigsby, who take such a tough approach to being the best and triumphing over others or over their own physical limitations at all costs.41 Finally, reflecting this sense of drive, many teachers now limit their words of praise to students to those that assess ones focus and determination, and some, such as those at Lenox Academy, overtly encourage students to rate and discuss the grit of their peers.


As grit makes its way from psychology to classrooms, it has rightly drawn our attention to the fact that good education is more than just nurturing intelligence or demonstrating achievement on a test, but rather extends into other aspects of character development, outlook, and ways of being. Emphasizing grit also helps us to see the importance of related traits, such as optimism, perseverance, and tenacity in responding to challenging conditions, with a bent toward continued learning and commitment. Anecdotally we hear that youth today seek instant gratification. Grit works against that trend. Finally, it draws attention to personal responsibility and urges children to claim and demonstrate some important aspects of such responsibility.

As grit has made its way into classroom practice, policy, testing of students, and evaluations of schools and teachers, problems with theories and research on grit are becoming apparent. This may be, in part, because our understanding of grit is too limited to serve as a clear guide for school practice or, especially, as a criterion for school evaluation. Overall, there have not been many studies on how to develop grit. Instead, most suggestions come from self-help style books of suggestions.42 Many of the studies that have been completed have looked at already high-achieving populations, for example Duckworth speaks most frequently about studying national spelling bee participants and Ivy League and West Point students.43 Indeed, many of those students come from well-off families, and Duckworth herself recognizes that her grit scores are significantly higher for wealthy students than for poor students.44 And, within some of the studies that have been conducted, grit has added little to predictions of academic success45 or creative achievement among children.46 Additionally, some results do not show that teaching techniques can improve students grit47 or, if they do produce improvement, the results are only short-lived.48 Others have alleged that Duckworths studies have exaggerated the impact of grit.49 Even though there is much that isnt settled about grit, what we can glean from its implications and applications in schools is worrisome. I will summarize some of those concerns here in order to later highlight how a pragmatist version of hope helps to supplement the weaknesses of grit or replace them entirely.

Most notably, as picked up by many schools, grit focuses too much on following a respectable path to success, reminiscent of Horatio Alger stories of hardworking boys overcoming poverty and hardship to earn a middle-class way of life. This path is primarily one of doing what you are told and not challenging ones conditions, as evidenced in some of the KIPP measurements listed above. It entails complying with ones larger circumstances such as poverty and lack of opportunity and persisting to achieve grand future goals within or in spite of those circumstances. Perhaps even focusing on meeting ones goals in a far-off future may be aligned with economic privilege, for the poorest people are often so focused on daily struggles of meeting basic needs to get by that a call to prioritize a distant future may seem unfathomable or perhaps even foolish to them.50

Sometimes talk of grit seems to even romanticize struggle and hardship, glorifying them as a source of or demonstrable location for grit. Surely, we do not want to celebrate the incredible strain of conditions such as racism or poverty, nor do we want to overlook the persistence that many children have already demonstrated under such strain by suggesting that it hasnt been sufficiently directed toward worthy large goals, especially those that map on to middle-class success or academic achievement.51 Nor do we want grit to be so focused on the achieving of grand goals in a distant and glorious future that the present, including the depths of struggle and pain within it, is ignored or downplayed. Finally, we do not want to support an educational approach that does not encourage or aid students in questioning and challenging injustices in society, but rather, as Ariana Gonzalez Stokas said, reveals itself as a pedagogy in learning to endure suffering.52 We want students to examine and challenge the social, economic, and political conditions that support or hinder their success and that of others, not just blindly withstand them, focusing merely on achieving their personal goals despite the obstacles they face. We want an educational experience that teaches children how to be democratic students who speak out in dissent against injustice and work to assuage it for the sake of oneself, others, the present, and the future.53

All of this leads to a pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps mentality, a well-established practice that sometimes places blame on the victim for not being gritty enough and urging him or her to just work harder to overcome structural hurdles that are often so significant that they cannot be tackled alone. Stokas chronicles the history and persistence of this mentality well in her article, A Genealogy of Grit.54 This worldview locates failure within the character of the child, rather than acknowledges the severity of the conditions faced by that child. It sets up false promises in that one is led to believe that by demonstrating just the right sort of persistent behavior, one not only will achieve success but deserve success. To highlight that mentality, literature on grit tends to celebrate exceptional cases, such as Michael Jordan earning a spot on his high school basketball team after initially being rejected.55 While such examples can help us see elements of grit and hope, focusing on them sets up struggling students for frustration and blame when they do not achieve what those exceptional folks do. It may also be the case that grit gets picked up later in life by successful people seeking a justification for their success and a rationale for why others have not achieved similarly and therefore dont deserve similar rewards. It can feel good to believe that one has earned ones position through demonstrating grit, rather than acknowledging how other factors, such as wealth or family connections, may have influenced ones success.

Considering the larger systems of injustice and privilege that work to promote the success of some and thwart the success of others suggests that current understandings of grit may be too individualist. Focusing exclusively on ones own individual goals without considering the impact of ones self on the pathways of others doesnt help to change larger systematic injustice or even encourage one to work with others within those systems. Adversity may not only be unworthy of celebration, it may stem from root causes that are too deep for individuals to face alone.

While it can be good to wholeheartedly pursue ones individual goals, its important to question those goals from time to time to determine their worthiness for oneself and others, including any potential harm that the goals or relentlessly pursuing them may cause. Single-mindedness can provide one focus, but it can also limit ones awareness of potentially more fruitful alternative options or the implications of ones efforts. Indeed, the best and most difficult choice may be to abandon ones long-term goal and redirect ones effort elsewhere, rather than doggedly stay the course. For example, some grit curricula encourage students to set goals related to the sports they enjoy. If a student aims to be a state wrestling champion, his goal may require extreme weight loss and lengthy exercise regiments that risk his health and his time with friends and family. He should stop to reconsider the goal when he faces obstacles that reveal he may be causing suffering to himself and others along the way, such as risking serious illness or injury and missing an important family event to attend a wrestling meet. We must be careful that unworthy individual goals are not unjustly emphasized over or inappropriately balanced with the common good. Furthermore, in the cases where grit pits individuals with the same or competing goals in competition with each other, problems may be magnified and hopelessness may result.56 Grit is hard to sustain in tough circumstances, and employing grit doesnt help to change those circumstances to make ones future efforts or those of others easier. While such criticisms of grit are important to air, I want to focus our attention here on how a pragmatist notion of hope may help to overcome the problems with grit and may point us in new, more ethical, and more sustainable directions in our use of grit and its alternatives in education.


Let us turn now to considering a different account of hope, one that, while related to more general understandings of hope and grit, provides not only a more sophisticated and justified educational aim but also overcomes some of the problems of grit detailed thus far. Although rather piecemeal in its earliest writings, pragmatism offers one of the few sustained philosophical discussions of hope, tracing its origins to John Dewey and William James, and appearing more recently and in more detail as social hope within the work of Richard Rorty, Judith Green, Patrick Shade, Colin Koopman, Robert Westbrook, Cornel West, and Stephen Fishman and Louise McCarthy.57

Despite these significant recent philosophical writings and a longstanding connection between the pragmatism of John Dewey and American schools, very few pragmatists have extended their work on hope to the realm of education and the development of children as I begin to do here. Perhaps pragmatisms staying power and its relative resurgence recently stems from its being firmly grounded in the real-life struggles of daily living while ardently striving to improve everyday lifean outlook that influenced the establishment of American schools, including their social and democratic purposes. Such an orientation is ripe for supporting a realistic yet robust and useful concept of hope for educational settings, one that can both supplement grit on some occasions and replace it on others.

My extension of the work of these pragmatists is guided by a close adherence to Deweyan pragmatism but also reflects the efforts of more recent pragmatists who locate hope within social struggles for a vision for shared living. Dewey himself experienced considerable tragedy in his life, including living through major wars as well as experiencing the loss of two of his children and his first wife. Yet, he retained a commitment to and spirit of hope throughout his work. Notably, however, he does not offer an overt account of hope; rather, I construct one here from his well-articulated elements of truth, growth, meliorism, and habits (as well as the spirit of democracy that is part of each of these elements) that together compose a notion of hope. I agree with Jim Garrison, who believes Dewey is a source of mature and intelligent hope.58 While this hope has a source in Dewey long ago, I attempt to flesh out here how that hope looks and functions from a Deweyan perspective within todays era of grit.


Many accounts of hope and of truth begin with God or some other foundation apart from the flawed and limited realm of humankind.59 But for pragmatists, there are no such foundations; hope and truth are human-made. Truth emerges out of our experiences and our inquiries into them as we devise and test what beliefs work in real-life situations. In other words, truth is a label we use for beliefs that enable us to understand and act upon the world in useful ways. We form warranted beliefs by testing them against our experiences and those of other people, revising them when they prove unhelpful, and honing in on them when they prove fruitful. Unlike faith as adhering to a belief or a God, William James aptly describes faith as a working hypothesis, a means of orienting ourselves and acting in certain ways to determine whether a hypothesis is truly workable. Having faith does not require unwavering adherence to a belief; rather it indicates readiness or willingness to act on a belief in order to test it."60 Hope arises, then, initially through inquiry and problem solving by exploring and testing opportunities that are presented in what pragmatists call indeterminate situations, problematic moments when we are unsure how to proceed. Hope is less tied to the distant goals of grit proponents and more apparent in the everyday moments of not having a clear path before us. Said differently, for Dewey, hope emerges in the anxiety that occurs when our habitual way of doing things fails.61 It enables us to live and thrive with uncertainty, change, and complexity, where we expect that our efforts can make a difference in shaping what is true and, therefore, useful.62


Most people understand schooling as an orderly march toward some clear goal, whether that is mastery of material, a diploma, or preparation for career or citizenship. Indeed, much of the talk about grit these days is concerned with setting and achieving clear goals in a passionate and driven way. For Duckworth, this typically means setting one goal, such as mastering one particular musical instrument, and sticking with it for years, rather than exploring other instruments one may discover along the way or shifting to another extracurricular activity entirely.63 For Dewey, however, the trajectory tends to be more complicated and less straightforward, as the realities of life alter our course and cause us to have to form new hypotheses about them and revise our aims. Moreover, holding a fixed end and moving headstrong toward it may not be desirable, for it may entail a limited or even a foreclosed vision of the unpredictable future. Instead, as other Teachers College Record authors have argued, we must listen to the criticisms of others and attend to the world around us as we revise our goals. We must be careful that character education does not become so goal-driven and self-assured that it lacks reverence as a sense of awe and respect for what we do not control in the world or our connection to others.64 Similarly, Edgoose rightly warns that hope wrapped up in a discourse of narrow goal-directedness can lead to hopelessness once one realizes how unpredictable our lives together and our futures are.65

For Dewey, education as growth entails a succession of educative experiences that shape and develop us, igniting curiosity and inquiry, and carrying us over future struggles, leading into new opportunities for reflection and learning. It is a richly cognitive process, not one merely of character or personality, as many educational applications of grit suggest. It enables us to encounter future novel situations with flexibility and intelligence so that we can transform them into further educative experiences. Dewey explained, If education is growth, it must progressively realize present possibilities, and thus make individuals better fitted to cope with later requirements. Growth is not something which is completed in odd moments; it is a continuous leading into the future.66 We learn how to learn67 as we flexibly adjust to our changing world and experiment in our new situations. In the words of Deweys contemporary, Richard Rorty, Hopethe ability to believe that the future will be unspecifiably different from, and unspecifiably freer than, the pastis the condition of growth.68 Hope moves us forward through inquiry and experimentation as we pursue our complicated trajectory. With each step we alter our goals and our understandings of ourselves and our world, an approach quite different from that of grit where one first identifies an overarching goal and systematically breaks it down into smaller goals to be tackled first.


Common conversations about grit are sometimes tied to rather simplistic and even naïve accounts of optimismcelebrating having a rosy outlook on the future and believing that things will work out regardless of current circumstances. In the context of Seligman and Duckworths work, optimism is believing that the causes of ones struggles are temporary and not ones fault.69 Likewise, Maholmes explains that optimism is the perception that ones goals can be attained with little regard for external hazards or even ones agency in forces that may thwart those goals. And Snyder contends that optimists dont need to engage with the messy aspects of real life but rather should stay focused on their personal goals with little regard for their larger social circumstances.70

Instead of such optimism, pragmatist hope is based in meliorism, essentially the idea that at least there is a sufficient basis of goodness in life and its conditions so that by thought and earnest effort we may constantly make things better.71 Pragmatists recognize the difficulty of current circumstances, but approach them with thoughtful action, emphasizing effort. Pragmatists dont just believe that the situation will work out for the best, but rather take action to contribute to a better outcome. Or, in the words of Cornel West, Optimism adopts the role of the spectator who surveys the evidence in order to infer that things are going to get better. Yet when we know that the evidence does not look good . . . Hope enacts the stance of the participant who actively struggles against the evidence.72 Such optimism is not a virtue but rather a shortsighted outlook on life that is not well informed or well directed, nor does it guide good action.73 While meliorism attacks optimism on the ground that it encourages the fatalistic contentment with things as they are; what is needed is the frank recognition of evils, not for the sake of accepting them as final, but for the sake of arousing energy to remedy them.74 Meliorism is hopeful action directed toward alleviating problems, and truth results from and is improved by those efforts.75

Such outlook and action are seldom the purview of individuals alone but rather are tied to the efforts and confidence of others who work together in problem solving. Koopman contended, As such, meliorism resonates with the central ethical impulse at the heart of pragmatism: democracy. Democracy is the simple idea that political and ethical progress hinges on nothing more than persons, their values, and their actions.76 Meliorism, which grows out of a pragmatist account of truth, inquiry, and growth, links individuals together in social and political hope.


When thinking about how to cultivate grit or hope, we need a platform that can be taught, has deep staying power, persists in the face of challenges, and adapts when necessary. Key to understanding hope and how we might teach for it is a pragmatist view of habits, which differs from the typical description of habits as merely repetitive behavior. Indeed, Duckworth, when describing her work on grit to teachers in KIPP schools (now a required part of their teacher training), first introduces them to the work of pragmatist William James on habits.77

Habits begin with impulsesnative leanings toward certain types of behavior. Dewey locates the initial elements of hope as impulses.

Man continues to live because he is living creature not because reason convinces him of the certainty or probability of future satisfactions and achievements. He is instinct with activities that carry him on. Individuals here and there cave in, and most individuals sag, withdraw and seek refuge at this and that point. But man as man still has the dumb pluck of the animal. He has endurance, hope, curiosity, eagerness, love of action. These traits belong to him by structure, not by taking thought.78

Over time, as we transact with the natural and social world around us, including cultural norms that govern accepted ways of behaving, and as we engage in reflection, our impulses are crafted into habits. We then largely perform these acts without conscious attention. Habits are dispositionsinclinations to act in certain ways. Habits take many forms, from the way we carry our bodies (posture, use of personal space) to our tendencies in communicating with others (dominating conversation, listening carefully) to our skills and judgment making (careful consideration, hasty conclusions). Dewey explained, All habits are demands for certain kinds of activity; and they constitute the self.79 So, we are a collection of habits.

Because habits are urges to act, they produce desires. Simultaneously, habits offer a way to pursue those desires, primarily through judgment, thought, and bodily movement. Dewey told us that habits do all the perceiving, recognizing, imagining, recalling, judging, conceiving and reasoning that is done.80 Habits are what enable us to reason and reflect on our world. They organize our perceptions of the environment in light of previous experience in order to form ideas about the world, which then allow us to implement our thoughts and desires. We test out those ideas to see if they are truthful and support our growth by looking to see whether they enable us to solve problems or indeterminate situations, which often involves collaborating with others and taking their well-being into consideration. We reflect on our experiences to determine which habits lead us from one satisfactory experience to another, promoting smooth and just transactions with the world and the people in it. So while habits may compose us as individuals, they are intimately linked to other people and culture as well.

Good habits are flexible, enabling us to respond to our changing world and carrying us over from one experience to the next, thereby enabling growth. Bad habits, however, are those that become fixed and disconnected from intelligence. Much like problematic and unquestioned goals of grit, bad habits are restrictive and have a hold on us, rather than us on them. Bad habits freeze plasticity, disabling the conditions for growth.


Pragmatist hope, as a set of habits, is, most essentially, a disposition toward possibility and change for the betterment of all. It begins with our impulse to survive and act in the world and is nurtured by a spirit of meliorism to seek acts and beliefs that can improve the world. Hope brings together truth, inquiry, and meliorism into a way of being that overcomes paralyzing or destructive forces of pessimism and anger insofar as it is a disposition that unites proclivities, emotions, and intelligent reflection to motivate one to act to improve ones conditions. Dewey explained that habits include the formation of attitudes, attitudes that are emotional and intellectual; it covers our basic sensitivities and ways of meeting and responding [mentally, emotionally, physically] to all the conditions which we meet in living.81 Rather than programmed responses or merely repeated actions, habits of hope are attitudes that shape our interaction with the world at hand. Rather than focusing on obstacles, a helpful habit of hope is to identify possibilities, greet them with zest, and act on them. While habits themselves are not emotions, we do experience them in emotional ways, often related to our feelings of success or failure related to our expectations.

Understanding pragmatist hope as a type of habit offers an important distinction from hope more commonly understood as an outlook or belief: a habit of hope entails action, especially actions that engage those proclivities and attitudes which move us toward desirable objects or states of affairs. Hope helps us envision and shape a desirable, though not yet achieved, object or state of affairs, whereas grit adheres to one that has already been determined. When we hope, we reflect on what we can reasonably expect as we calculate the likelihood of achieving our desired objects. Those expectations are practically tied to our conditions, and we must carefully consider the circumstances of our present predicaments and the past events that have shaped them. Yet, we move beyond those conditions through action, inquiry, and imagination to produce new and better conditions.82 In this way, hope is future-driven action that is informed by the past and present. Pragmatist hope focuses on the agency of people and what is within their experience in the lived world, rather than in supernatural forces or in optimistic pipe dreams. Pragmatist hope, then, is an active process, and it is our responsibility for realizing our hopes. This active sense of hope suggests heightened need for education in order to encourage and guide students in enacting hope and doing so well.83

I borrow the phrase habits of hope from Patrick Shade, who shares my understanding of habits as proclivities to action that arise from ones transactions with the world and ones natural impulses.84 Shade claimed that habits of hope are vital because hoping requires supporting structures, both individual and social . . . [and] habits enable us to do things with ease so that we may focus our attention elsewhere and develop new, more complicated modes of acting.85 Hope arising out of habit, then, provides a structure to sustain us as we make sense of our experiences and move forward toward satisfactory experiences in the future. While proponents of grit claim that grit can be increased, the platform of habits enables future, goal-driven action to be better cultivated in a sustainable way. While habits may be developed in many settings, their formation is often most overt in schools, where children watch, imitate, and interact with others as they learn about the world around them through both direct and indirect teachings. Teachers can guide the inquiry process so that students employ the reciprocal relationship between thought and habit to change and grow themselves, and to direct their habits toward practices of democracy with others. Teachers do this, in large part, by crafting environments and experiences that are conducive to the use and success of good social habits that support our individual growth and our well-being when working together in a community.

Shade offers three key habits of hope that enable people to pursue their proclivities toward a just life for all: persistence, resourcefulness, and courage. Because pragmatist hope must endure through difficult and sometimes seemingly endless situations, hope must have patience, commitment, attentiveness, and consistency at its root. Collectively, these function as persistence, which sustains our energy and keep us focused in the face of obstacles. Shade defined resourcefulness as the ability to connect means with ends, both in thought and deed.86 In this way, resourcefulness is a habit that helps one act fruitfully by bringing together means and ends, often through imagination. Finally, courage entails assessing risks and embarking on those that enable one to grow. Courage is a good habit in the sense defined above because it leads from one satisfactory experience to another. Each of these elements reinforces the others as we hope. Despite their combined power, however, not all hoping results in achieving or fulfilling our desires (the sort of false promise I discussed with grit), nor does pragmatism guarantee such an outcome.


Hope cannot be disconnected from lifes activities or it is rendered useless; rather, hope directs and grows lifes activities as outcomes of habits. In looking at the realistic and generative senses of such hope, it can be operationalized so that, in the bold words of Shade, hope signifies the growth of agency.87 In other words, habits of hope provide us the support structure and intelligent direction that enable us to become agents capable of changing ourselves and our world. In this regard it is more appropriate to think of hope as hopinga verb, an ongoing activity. This activity is centered in the relation between an organism and its environment, including other people. Through growth and expansion of abilities, hope functions to energize and sustain the self as it reconstructs itself in the teeth of trying circumstances.88

Acting in the face of trying circumstances can reveal important elements of obstacles and generate new opportunities. For Deweyan pragmatists, to act well in the face of our circumstances is to employ inquiry through the empirical method to better understand our conditions and move forward through them. This method helps combat the stagnation of fatalism by urging us to formulate and try out solutions. First, we usually must gather information to help us understand a situation. We use that information to consider possible courses of action and predict their results. We think through potential ways our action might unfold and try to head off problems. As we hope, we use our imagination to construct creative solutions and envision using our agency to change our circumstances.

Our inquiry should be directed by ends, which Dewey defined as foreseen consequences which arise in the course of activity and which are employed to give activity added meaning and to direct its further course.89 But unlike grit, which is often driven by distant rewards and achievements, Dewey recommends that we first aim for ends-in-view relatively close and feasible, though perhaps difficult, goals. Ends-in-view keep us attuned to the present and its opportunities via resourcefulness (even if currently obscured by barriers), rather than just dreaming of some far away future. Indeed, Harvard researchers questioning the approach of grit have discovered that focusing on short term goals, rather than large overarching goals as called for by grit proponents, better ensures success.90

Those Deweyan ends-in-view may lead to ultimate ends, but because our focus is on each one at a time, the course and its destination are revisable as we gather new information and as we change in different circumstances across time. They enable us to appreciate the present and to be more receptive to the opportunities it offers. Linking this view of hope to other philosophers such as Martin Heidegger and Gabriel Marcel, David Halpin concluded, hope is interpreted not so much as a matter of positively looking forwardthough this is a significant part of itbut a way of living prospectively in and engaging purposefully with the past and present.91 Once we have used reason to select the seeming best path toward our ends-in-view, we must test our plan to see whether it improves our circumstances and enables us to live more fruitfully with others. The achieved ends-in-view then tie together in continuity as growth, and with each fulfilled end-in-view, we sustain our hope by highlighting meaningful headway and redirecting our further action.


Whereas calls for grit often evoke the image of a lone ranger, setting out to achieve bold goals independently, the pragmatist celebrates hope as a social activity. Through transactions we continually shape and are shaped by the people around us and our cultural traditions. Even when carried out in seemingly independent ways, the process of inquiry, growth, and development of habits unites us with the affairs and well-being of others. In part, this is because we must consider how to flourish alongside others as we craft our ends-in-view and, in part, this is because we often need help in order to achieve our goals, which pushes us to act in coordination with others.92 Through exploration into our contexts and experimentation within them, we are also tied to nature. Nature provides not only our conditions but sometimes our obstacles and our solutions. Our habits of hope are tied to nature, and recognizing that helps build a sense of belonging with the natural world and reveals how pursuing ones hopes affects the world. Garrison, Fishman, and McCarthy similarly point out that hope requires gratitude, where we see how our lives and well-being (and I would add success in meeting our goals) derives from nature and the efforts of others and should never be cut off from them.93

Hope, unlike grit, is not a mere trait held by individuals. Hopes context is in the life of human beings . . . as a complex mode of interaction . . . not as a private mental state, but as an activity belonging to an organism in dynamic relation with its environment.94 When we encounter indeterminate situations the process of inquiry is provoked and hope propels us through it. Pragmatisms close engagement with the present context, adaptive goal setting, and use of the empirical method differentiates it from other traditions and renders its notion of hope more useful, meaningful, and social. And, rather than hope as a fixed trait that is possessed or wielded, pragmatist hope unites thought, experimentation, reflection, and action, making hope more intelligent, active, realistic, and generative. Importantly, for Dewey,

the object of his ultimate hopehis most important and inclusive hopeis a society characterized by democratic relationships. According to Dewey, such a society best enables its members to live purposeful and unified lives, ones filled with continuities and interactions, with creative efforts and fulfillments. Put otherwise, Deweys ultimate hope is for a society that, by helping its members get the most out of their experiences, enables them to live in hope.95

Echoing the spirit of meliorism, Deweyan pragmatists see democracy as always open to improvement from the actions of it citizens. Democracy is a relationship in which we test out our hopes together, continually revising and reimagining our ways of life together. Hence, our hopes are held with and play out alongside others, rather than merely amongst ourselves. Rather than hope as merely being wishful on our own, democracy is a way in which we engage in hope and problem solving together.96

Perhaps counterintuitively, Hope often creates discontent, inasmuch as a persons hopes for the future may make them very dissatisfied with things as they are presently.97 That discontent can be used proactively as democratic dissent, in which one not only expresses ones dissatisfaction with the current state but helps others to see the problem, and then puts forward solutions to be discussed and tested. This discontent becomes an important part of cultural criticism, critique, and inquiry geared toward improving social living, rather than tolerating it, as is often the case with grit.98 Moreover, such dissent mobilizes action. Here again, we see an important distinguishing element of pragmatic hope and meliorism. Optimists are conservative because their faith in a benign future is rooted in their trust in the essential soundness of the present . . . Only if you view your situation as critical do you recognize the need to transform it. Dissatisfaction can be a goad to reform . . . True hope is needed most when the situation is at its starkest, a state of extremity that the optimist is generally loath to acknowledge.99 Whereas the optimist does nothing, the hopeless citizen says nothing. Immobilized, she neither takes a stand on problems nor puts forward alternatives.

Well-functioning democracies, however, can help to grow and sustain hope when they provide spaces and encouragement for citizens to hope together. Shawn Ginwright explained that collective democratic hope entails coming together around shared problematic experiences, engaging in radical imagination about their collective vision for the future, and then taking critical action together to realize that vision.100


While some of the differences between grit and hope have become clear by juxtaposing a pragmatist account of hope to grit, some of the benefits and drawbacks of pragmatist hope are worthy of additional summary. Pragmatist hope is located within and attentive to the muddy and complex circumstances of our daily lives. Unlike grit, it is not invoked only with ones eye to the future, and it requires more reasonable and tempered consideration of ones circumstances. Additionally, while habits of hope are housed within and compose individuals, hope is not individualist in the same ways that grit is. Instead, it extends to the social and plays out most fruitfully there because it is guided by growth, meliorism, and the democratic good, each of which take into account the well-being of others and our impact on them. It pushes us from exceptional individual pursuit of our most ambitious goals to reflective, collective public work to make the world a better place, which may include speaking out in dissent about unjust circumstances. Rather than putting ones head down or digging in ones heels in the spirit of grit, hope demands reflection, change, and action. Pragmatist hope decouples grit from success, showing that one does not necessarily lead to the other, and then offers a path forward through the recognition that, while success is not assured, action is still worthwhile, especially given its impact on social and democratic life.

Pragmatist hope as habit can help sustain us through challenging times. Hope keeps us active. Shade explained, It exercises our agency, thereby keeping our energies flowingalbeit under our control. Consequently, dispersal and unwanted diversion of energy are avoided. Further, keeping active develops our abilities and explores possibilities both in thought and in deed . . . Keeping active, then, functions as an indispensable protective measure against the draining effects of fear and distraction. Without it, fear and loss would replace hope and growth.101 While one might assume that hope is an appealing and motivating trait, pragmatist hope requires effort and persistence. While it may be exhausting, it keeps us moving through adversity. Cornel West aptly noted, When you talk about hope, you have to be a long-distance runner.102 And that runner is not sprinting toward a clearly defined finish line, but rather changing pace and course as she reflects on each new obstacle ahead and each end-in-view. Our habits give us such flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances using inquiry and reflection. Rather than being rigid and fixed, like grit, flexible habits use imagination, ideals, desires, and deliberations with others to welcome new activities and directions.

Even keeping in mind those benefits and the polls regarding indicators of school success noted at the outset of this article, teaching for hope may be outside of what the public expects of our schools. Open conversations about what we want schools to teach must be settled before charging schools with such a task. The bandwagon for grit seems to have been set in motion before such deliberations were held and the concept was sufficiently clear or researched. Cultivating hope is also often beyond teachers training and would require significant professional development. Even with that, however, teachers already have so much on their plates in terms of content matter that there may simply not be enough time available to also cultivate habits of hope, especially when serving high-needs children. But, teaching for hope should at least be integrated into the curriculum for content learning and the platform of habits, used to link actions to goals through reflection, a gateway for enhancing students agency within the academic setting. These activities promote the notion of habits of hope that may extend into other life arenas for students.  Even if taught, however, resulting calls to measure or test hope should be avoided, for they would likely lead to a reductionist understanding of what hope is.


As American school practices and policies are moving quickly toward celebrating grit as a new aim of education, we should be leery of potential pitfalls. Instead, a renewed interest in and more focused account of teaching for pragmatist hope may help us overcome those pitfalls. I hope that my work here may be taken up elsewhere to explore middle ground between grit and hope, as well as new alternatives. By developing a better understanding of grit via hope or by pursuing ways of cultivating habits of hope in more detail, we may produce graduates who not only show perseverance in pursuing their goals but also know how to craft those goals with flexible ends-in-view and how to appraise them and revise them in light of their affect on others. Habits of hope embody meliorism that drives us to action in the face of adversity and directs that action toward our growth and democratic life alongside others.


This material is based upon work supported by Templeton Foundation prime Grant NO. 46501 and the Center for Ethics and Education. Such support does not constitute endorsement by the sponsors of the views expressed in this publication.


1. Julian Edgoose (2010) has previously described the history of viewing schooling as hopeful in this journal via the work of David Tyack and Larry Cuban. Hope in the Unexpected: How Can Teachers Still Make a Difference in the World? Teachers College Record 112 (2).

2. Valerie J. Calderon and Tim Hodges, K-12 Leaders: Student Engagement, Hope Top Measures of a School, Gallup, http://www.gallup.com/opinion/gallup/188012/leaders-student-engagement-hope-top-measures-school.aspx?g_source=CATEGORY_EDUCATION&g_medium=topic&g_campaign=tiles

3. Brentwood High School: A School of Hope, May 2010. Principal Leadership, 10(9).

4. Edgoose, Hope in the Unexpected.

5. 2014 Gallup Student Poll as cited in Sara McKibben, 2015. Seeing Beyond the Glass Half Full, Education Update, 57(11): 3-5;  thank you to Lori Foote, a longtime teacher, for reminding me that many schools are strapped by accountability demands and may not be willing or able to take on teaching grit.

6. U.S. Department of Education, 2013.  Promoting Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance: Critical Factors for Success in the 21st Century, http://pgbovine.net/OET-Draft-Grit-Report-2-17-13.pdf;  Sarah D. Sparks, Nations Report Card to Gather Data on Grit, Mindset, Education Week, http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2015/06/03/nations-report-card-to-gather-data-on.html

7. Claire Robertson-Kraft and Angela Duckworth, True Grit: Trait-Level Perseverance and Passion for Long-Term Goals Predicts Effectiveness and Retention Among Novice Teachers, Teachers College Record Volume 116 Number 3, 2014.

8. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/rulesforengagement/2015/09/walton_family_


9. Edgoose, Hope in the Unexpected, 389.
10. Angela Duckworth, March 26, 2016, Dont Grade Schools on Grit, New York Times,


11. Angela Duckworth, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (New York: Scribner, 2016), 64.

12. Duckworth, Grit, 64.

13. Duckworth, Grit, 91-2.

14. Duckworth, Grit, 148.

15. Duckworth in video Teaching Grit Cultivates Resilience, available at http://www.bitofgrit.com/home

16. Duckworth, Grit; Paul Tough, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, 2013), 74-75.

17. Character Lab Card, https://cdn.characterlab.org/assets/Character-Growth-Card-8a9b995138cfd2572a42c2d34ba958e340211cde8ba2a1e80ab44887fb69c671.pdf

18. Duckworth, Grit, 269.

19. Ibid, 139.

20. Ibid, 245.

21. Carol Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (New York: Ballantine Books, 2008), 7.

22. Ibid, 46.

23. Character Lab Card, https://cdn.characterlab.org/assets/Character-Growth-Card-8a9b995138cfd2572a42c2d34ba958e340211cde8ba2a1e80ab44887fb69c671.pdf

24. Deborah Meier, April 11, 2013, Explaining KIPPs SLANT, Education Week, http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/Bridging-Differences/2013/04/slant_and_the_golden_rule.html

25. Resources page at Bit of Grit, http://www.bitofgrit.com/resources

26. Stephen Fishman and Louise McCarthy, John Dewey and the Philosophy and Practice of Hope (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2007), 95.   

27. Valerie Maholmes, Fostering Resilience and Well-Being in Children and Families: Why Hope Still Matters (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), 14.

28. Ibid, 14.

29. Mike Rose, Why School?: Reclaiming Education for all of Us. (New York: New Press, 2014); Tough, How Children Succeed, xv; Mikhail Zinshteyn, July, 23, 2015, What Does it Mean to have Grit in the Classroom?, The Atlantic,  http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/07/what-grit-looks-like-in-the-classroom/399197/

30. Martin Seligman, Learned Optimism (New York: Vintage, 2006).

31. Ibid, 48.

32. Seligman, Learned Optimism, 48; Duckworth, Grit, 192.

33. McKibben, Seeing Beyond, 4-5.

34. Jerome Groopman, The Anatomy of Hope: How People Prevail in the Face of Illness (New York: Random House, 2004), 199.  

35. Ibid, 203.

36. Paul Stoltz, Grit: The New Science of What it Takes to Persevere (Climb Strong Press, 2014), 2.

37. Ibid, 45.

38. Ibid, 11.

39. Paul G. Stoltz, Adversity Quotient: Turning Obstacles into Opportunities (Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, 1997).

40. Angela Duckworth and Lauren Eskreis-Winkler, April 2013, True Grit, Observer, https://www.psychologicalscience.org/ index.php/publications/observer/2013/april-13/true-grit.html; Vicki Davis, January 9, 2014, True Grit:  The Best Measure of Success and How to Teach it, http://www.edutopia.org/blog/true-grit-measure-teach-success-vicki-davis

41. Tovia Smith, March 17, 2014, Does Teaching Kids to Get Gritty Help them Get Ahead? National Public Radio, http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2014/03/17/290089998/does-teaching-kids-to-get-gritty-help-them-get-ahead; Tovia Smith, March 17, 2014, On the Syllabus: Lessons in Grit, National Public Radio, http://www.npr.org/2014/03/17/290894364/on-the-syllabus-lessons-in-grit

42. Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval, Grit to Great (New York: Crown Publishing, 2015).

43. Daniel Engber, Is Grit Really the Key to Success? Slate, May 8, 2016.

44. Duckworth, Grit, 237.

45. Kalli Rimfield, Yulia Kovas, Philip S. Dale, and Robert Plomin, True Grit and Genetics: Predicting Academic Achievement from Personality, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, February 11, 2016.

46. Sarah D. Sparks, August 19, 2014, Grit May not Spur Creative Success, Scholars Say, Education Week, http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/08/20/01grit.h34.html

47. Rimfield, Kovas, Dale, and Plomin, True Grit and Genetics.

48. Angela Duckworth, Teri A. Kirby, Anton Gollwitzer, Gabriele Oettingen, 2013.  From Fantasy to Action:  Mental Contrasting with Implementations (MCII) Improves Academic Performance in Children, School Psychological and Personality Science 4(6), 745-753.  http://spp.sagepub.com/content/4/6/745

49. Anya Kamenetz, May 25, 2016, MacArthur Genius Angela Duckworth Responds to a New Critique of Grit, National Public Radio, (http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/05/25/479172868/angela-duckworth-responds-to-a-new-critique-of-grit).

50. Again, my appreciation to Lori Foote for pointing out these differing aspects of socioeconomic status.

51. For more on the possible racist elements of grit, see Benjamin Herold, Is Grit Racist? Education Week, January 24, 2015 and Perry Andre, Black and Brown Boys Dont Need to Learn Grit: They Need Schools to Stop Being Racist, The Root, May 2, 2016.

52. Ariana Gonzalez Stokas, A Genealogy of Grit: Education in the New Gilded Age, Educational Theory, 65, no. 5 (2015): 513-528, 520.

53. Sarah M. Stitzlein, Teaching for Dissent:  Citizenship Education and Political Activism (Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers, 2012).

54. Gonzalez Stokas, A Genealogy of Grit.

55. Thaler and Koval, Grit to Great.

56. Fishman and McCarthy, John Dewey, 43.

57. Richard Rorty, Philosophy and Social Hope (Middlesex, England: Penguin Books, 1999); Judith Green, Pragmatism and Social Hope: Deepening Democracy in Global Contexts (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008); Patrick Shade, Habits of Hope: A Pragmatic Theory (Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 2001); Colin Koopman, Pragmatism as Transition: Historicity and Hope in James, Dewey, and Rorty (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009); Robert Westbrook, Democratic Hope: Pragmatism and the Politics of Truth (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2005); Cornell West, Hope on a Tightrope (Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, 2008) and  Prisoners of Hope, in The Impossible Will Take a Little While, edited by Paul Rogat Loeb (Cambridge, MA: Basic Books, 2004); Fishman and McCarthy, John Dewey and the Practice and Philosophy of Hope (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2007).

58. Jim Garrison, A Review of John Dewey and the Philosophy and Practice of Hope, Teachers College Record, February 22, 2008.

59. Consider, for example, the work of St. Thomas Aquinas or the Apostle Paul.

60. James as recounted by Patrick Shade, Habits of Hope: A Pragmatic Theory (Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press), 68.  

61. Garrison, A Review.

62. While Richard Rorty takes Dewey so far as to suggest that we can substitute truth with hope when it comes to American politics, Im not taking a pragmatist account of truth quite that far in my use of it here. Rorty, Philosophy and Social Hope, 24.

63. Duckworth, Grit.

64. Jim Garrison and A.G. Rud, Reverence in Classroom Teaching, Teachers College Record, 111, no. 11 (2009): 2626-2646.

65. Edgoose, 403.

66. John Dewey, Democracy and Education, The Middle Works, 1899-1924, Vol 9, Ed. JoAnn Boydston (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1980), 60.

67. Ibid, 50.

68. Richard Rorty, Philosophy and Social Hope (New York: Penguin Books, 1999), 120.

69. Duckworth, Grit; 174; Seligman, Learned Optimism, 4-5.

70. Fishman and McCarthy, John Dewey, 89.

71. John Dewey, Democracy and Education, The Middle Works, 1899-1924, Vol 9, Ed. JoAnn Boydston (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1980/1916), 294.

72. Cornel West, Prisoners of Hope, in The Impossible Will Take a Little While, edited by Paul Rogat Loeb (Cambridge, MA: Basic Books, 2004), 296.

73. Terry Eagleton, Hope without Optimism (Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 2015), 2.

74. John Dewey, Democracy and Education, The Middle Works, 1899-1924, Vol 9, Ed. Jo Ann Boydston (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1980/1916), 294.

75. Colin Koopman, Pragmatism as Transition: Historicity and Hope in James, Dewey, and Rorty (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009), 22.  

76. Ibid, 107.

77. Tough, How Children Succeed, 94.

78. John Dewey, Democracy and Education, The Middle Works, 1899-1924, Vol 9, Ed. JoAnn Boydston (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1980/1916), 199-200.

79. John Dewey, Human Nature and Conduct: An Introduction to Social Psychology, The Middle Works, 1899-1924, Vol 14, Ed. JoAnn Boydston (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1983/1922), 21.

80. Ibid, 124.

81. John Dewey, Democracy and Education, The Middle Works, 1899-1924, Vol 9, Ed. JoAnn Boydston (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1980/1916), 54.

82. John Dewey, Experience and Education, The Later Works, 1925-1953, Vol 13, Ed. JoAnn Boydston (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1988), 31.

83. Shade nicely distinguishes these elements of hope as transcendent and conditioned in Habits of Hope, 6-7.

84. I want to recognize that Shade importantly distinguishes particular hopes from hopefulness, which I omit here only for the sake of space.  Shade, Habits of Hope.

85. Ibid, 77.

86. Ibid, 89.

87. Emphasis in original, Shade, Habits of Hope, 22.

88. Shade, Habits of Hope, 11.

89. John Dewey, Human Nature, 209.

90. Jeffrey J. Selingo, May 25, 2016, Is Grit Overrated in Explaining Student Success?  Harvard Researchers have a New Theory, The Washington Post, (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2016/05/25/is-grit-overrated-in-explaining-student-success-harvard-researchers-have-a-new-theory-and-its-not-comforting-at-all/?hpid=hp_hp-more-top-stories-2_gp-grit-710a-stream%3Ahomepage%2Fstory#
91. David Halpin, Hope and Education: The Role of the Utopian Imagination. New York: Routledge Falmer, 2003, 14-15.  

92. For more on help and coordination, see Shade, Habits of Hope, 90 and 111.

93. Garrison, A Review; Fishman and McCarthy, John Dewey.  

94. Shade, Habits of Hope, 14.

95. Fishman and McCarthy, John Dewey, 20.

96. I thank an anonymous reviewer for pointing this out to me.

97. David Halpin, Hope and Education, 15.

98. For more on what he calls meliorist cultural criticism see Colin Koopman, Pragmatism as Transition, 45.

99. Eagleton, Hope without Optimism, 4-5.

100. Shawn Ginwright, Hope and Healing in Urban Education: How Urban Activists and Teachers are Reclaiming Matters of the Heart (New York: Routledge, 2016), 23.

101. Shade, Habits of Hope, 87.

102. Cornel West, Hope on a Tightrope (Carlsbad, CA: SmileyBooks, 2008), 215.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 120 Number 3, 2018, p. 1-28
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22085, Date Accessed: 10/26/2021 1:33:30 AM

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About the Author
  • Sarah Stitzlein
    Teachers College, University of Cincinnati
    E-mail Author
    SARAH M. STITZLEIN is Professor of Education and Affiliate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cincinnati. She specializes in philosophy of education, political philosophy, educational inequality, and democratic education. Her most recent book, American Public Education and the Responsibility of Citizens: Supporting Democracy in an Age of Accountability, was published by Oxford University Press in 2017.
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