Not that I didn’t already know about the pitfalls of labels, especially when they’re person-oriented and not task-specific, but damn, if I weren’t anxious enough already around my niece and nephew (and students) in terms of how I communicate anything to their malleable developing brains, this Atlantic article is doing nothing to mitigate the problem. I’m hyper-conscious of them building narrow mental models of the most confining social constructs (i.e. race and gender) because that’s about all I feel reasonably in control of influencing in a positive way. But now if I hear my sister or parents call one of them smart (the “S” word, in the article), am I supposed to stop them and say, “actually, what she’s doing is demonstrating intelligence in this particular situation, so let’s not pin her down with the suggestion that she’s innately smart and thus encourage a fixed mindset about her capacities. Trust me, our mindfulness now will pay off later. She’ll understand.” How often do you hear parents praise their children with performance-oriented praise? “Oooh, she’s so smart!” That sounds more normal, and therein is the issue, our proclivity to define our youth as this or that, fitting them comfortably within the social paradigm. Beginning to determine their future. Or is that a slippery slope?
In truth, I side with the article’s argument. Heck, I invite my students to have the same mentality it espouses: a growth mindset, which leaves them open to possibility, reveals to them the importance of failure and the necessity of change, and underscores the power of self-generosity.
So why am I writing about it? Because I forgot to post yesterday, and I’m retroactively adding it in, Fuller-style.