Schools are pushing “soft skills” such as “grit,” compassion and a “growth mindset” to prepare students for college and careers. Black and Brown Boys Don’t Need to Learn Grit; They Need Schools to Stop Being Racist, writes Andre Perry, an education consultant and writer, in The Root.
Soft-skills training is disguised bootstrapping, which insidiously blames youths for failing in racist systems designed to block their success, and it absolves the middle class of any responsibility to uproot inequality. It is racism that really keeps students out of college and careers, not a child’s lack of resilience. Students are ready for college and jobs. Postsecondary institutions and employers are not ready for black and brown youths.
“Men and boys of color need to learn how to deconstruct systems rather than adapt to broken ones,” writes Perry.
For example, the Louisiana Youth Justice Coalition organized teens to call for juvenile-justice reform at the State Capitol. They urged legislators and the governor to support a bill that would end the practice of prosecuting 17-year-olds as adults.
“Saying that a kid from Baltimore, St. Louis or New Orleans needs grit is like saying a mountain climber needs to get rid of her fear of falling,” Perry concludes.
That’s a good line. But is it really true that black and brown youths are ready for college and jobs, blocked only by racism? Do they already have the academic skills — and grit — needed to succeed?