1st Edition

Debunking the Grit Narrative in Higher Education Drawing on the Strengths of African American, Asian American, Pacific Islander, Latinx, and Native American Students

    286 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    286 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Debunking the Grit Narrative in Higher Education examines pressing structural issues currently impacting African American, Asian American, Pacific Islander, Latinx, and Native American students accessing college and succeeding in U.S. postsecondary environments. Drawing from asset-based work of critical race education scholars such as Yosso, Ladson-Billings, and contributing author Solórzano, the authors interrogate how systems and structures shape definitions of academic merit and grit, how these systems constrain opportunities to attain access and equitable educational outcomes, and challenge widely held beliefs that Students of Color need grit to succeed in college. Dominant narratives of educational success and failure tend to focus mostly on individual student effort. Contributing authors explore the myriad ways that institutional structures can support Students of Color utilizing their strengths through critical perspectives, asset-based, anti-deficit perspectives to access postsecondary environments and experience success. Scholars, scholar-practitioners, students affairs professionals, and educational leaders will benefit from this timely edited book as they work to transform postsecondary institutions into entities that meet the needs of Students and Communities of Color.



    Chapter 1: Introduction: The Problem with Grit

    Deborah Faye Carter, Rocío Mendoza, and Angela Locks

    Part I: Contexts and Foundations: The Origins of Grit

    Chapter 2: Critiques of Grit as a Measure of Academic Achievement in STEM Higher Education

    Deborah Faye Carter, Juanita E. M. Razo Dueñas, and Rocío Mendoza

    Chapter 3: Challenging Everyday Structural Racism: A Critical Race Analysis of Grit in STEM

    Daniel G. Solórzano

    Chapter 4: The Grit Narrative: Shifting the Gaze and the Danger

    Stephanie Waterman

    Chapter 5: Sometimes You’re Gritty, and Sometimes You’re Not: The Racialization of Grit for Asian Americans

    Jacqueline Mac, Rikka J. Venturanza, Megan Trinh, and Varaxy Yi

    Part II: College Structural Barriers and Research Studies

    Chapter 6: More than Grit: Toward Critical Race College Retention and Persistence for Latina/o/x Students

    Nancy Acevedo

    Chapter 7: Gritty Enough?: African American Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) Student Success Factors

    Melissa M. Mahoney

    Chapter 8: Beyond the Bootstraps Mentality: The Fallacy of Grit as a Measure of Success for Black and Latino Men in California Community Colleges

    Julio Fregoso

    Part III: Educational Practices Supporting Achievement

    Chapter 9: Returning to Campus: Equity Minded Approaches to Degree Completion

    Sabrina K. Sanders and Su Jin Gatlin Jez

    Chapter 10: A Counternarrative to Grit through Scholarship on Latinx/a/o Students and HSIs: A Systematic Review of the Literature

    Kathleen Rzucidlo, Stacey R. Speller, Jorge Burmicky, and Robert T. Palmer

    Chapter 11: Holo i ka ʻAuwai, Flowing with the Power of the Stream: Empowerment-Based Evaluation and Research

    Anna M. Ortiz and Maenette K. P. Benham

    Chapter 12: Centering the Student in Undergraduate Research as a Retention Strategy

    Rocío Mendoza, Elyzza M. Aparicio, Deborah Faye Carter, and Angela M. Locks

    Chapter 13 Conclusion: The Problem with Grit is White Supremacy

    Rocío Mendoza, Deborah Faye Carter, and Angela Locks

    Contributor Bios



    Angela M. Locks is Executive Director for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for Academic Affairs and Professor of Educational Leadership and Student Development in Higher Education at California State University, Long Beach, USA.

    Rocío Mendoza is Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership and Higher Education at the University of Redlands, USA.

    Deborah Faye Carter is Associate Professor of Higher Education at Claremont Graduate University, USA.

    Debunking the Grit Narrative in Higher Education provides readers with authentic experiences, authentic struggles, authentic strategies, and authentic asset-based conceptualizations of success. These scholars rigorously debunk the deficit discourse around African American, Asian American, Pacific Islander, Latinx and Native American students’ college access and persistence. The edited volume shows that closing the so-called "achievement gap" for minoritized students does not solely depend on their individual sense of "grit," "merit," and "ganas" but on examining the effects of structural exclusion, oppression, and racism. In this groundbreaking volume, the authors provide powerful and rigorous cases that demonstrate how Students of Color navigate these opportunity structures to access equitable and just educational outcomes. This is a must-read book for anyone interested in finding pragmatic solutions to address the deeply rooted inequalities that exist in America's educational systems.

    --Gil Conchas, The Wayne K. & Anita Woolfolk Hoy Endowed Chair of Education, College of Education, The Pennsylvania State University

    Nearly two decades since "grit" entered the popular vernacular, the concept maintains a strong grip both within academic and popular culture. Despite its longevity, the concept remains volatile and complicated. However as the authors in this volume explain, grit is just the latest iteration in a long-line of racist, classist, and deficit frameworks that uncritically blames the victim for their own lack of success. The stories contained herein are essential reading to help historicize, problematize, and interrogate grit’s troubled roots while also giving agency to those historically silenced or ignored in conversations about opportunity in higher education.

    --María C. Ledesma, Ph.D., Professor & Chair, Department of Educational Leadership, Inaugural Coordinator, Higher Education Leadership Master’s Program, Lurie College of Education, San José State University

    This important asset-based volume unveils how grit narratives that claim to promote minoritized student success cover-up the actual structural causes of ongoing racialized educational inequities. In a post-affirmative action era marked by anti "CRT" legislation and "race neutral" policies designed to pretend that racialized inequality and violence are "fake news," the truths uncovered in each chapter should be essential reading for higher education practitioners, scholars, and leaders alike. 

    --Uma Mazyck Jayakumar, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Higher Education Administration and Policy, University of California, Riverside

    Locks, Mendoza, and Carter put together an essential resource for scholars, practitioners, and everyday people who are ready to remove blame from the students and communities most impacted by structural inequities. Through a thoughtful collection from diverse contributors, they help shift our focus away from individual characteristics that supposedly motivate students to persist and back to the larger conditions that enforce persistence on people already disenfranchised. In doing so, we’re able to see these communities in their collective resistance and joy.

    --Dr. Tracy Lachica Buenavista, Ph.D., Professor of Asian American Studies, co-principal investigator for the CSUN DREAM Center, Asian American Studies Pathways Project, and Ethnic Studies Education Pathways Project, California State University Northridge

    This is one of the most comprehensive attempts at interrogating grit and is a must read for educational leaders, researchers, and student affairs scholar-practitioners. While grit has gained prominence in education as a tool for explaining perseverance for underserved community groups, this book calls on us to understand that there is far more to this concept than has previously been explored. The authors challenge us to consider the historical context of institutional racism and exclusion in understanding grit. Included in this work are many critical aspects in the exploration of grit, such as psychological implications, structural inequalities, critical race theory, asset- based concepts and indigenous ways of knowing. The use of secondary datasets illuminates the critical findings of this work to support thoughtful reflection and new ways of building engaged inclusive educational communities of learning for diverse learners across academic disciplines.

    --Dawn R. Person, Professor Emeritus, Educational Leadership, Director, Center for Research on Educational Access and Leadership (C-REAL), CSU Fullerton

    Inspired by Gloria Ladson-Billings, in their edited book, "Debunking the grit narrative," Angela M. Locks, Rocío Mendoza, and Deborah Faye Carter have gathered contributions that problematize a concept (grit) that fails to problematize the White Supremacy that underlies its project of counseling individual perseverance. In the spirit of Toni Morrison’s 1975 speech at Portland State University, the authors and contributors refuse to be distracted from the work of understanding students of color’s praxis in navigating, with their strengths, the structures that perpetuate racist oppression. In the process, they interrogate these structures to dismantle them.

    --Gary Rhoades, Professor, Center for the Study of Higher Education, Departmentt of Educational Policy Studies & Practice, University of Arizona

    As a scholar and leader that thinks carefully about how the interactions between people in organizations shape positive or negative experiences, I read this project with great anticipation. Debunking the Grit Narrative in Higher Education did not disappoint and is a welcomed addition to the literature-base that informs how we understand institutions of higher education as organizations. The chapters deepen our knowledge and challenge readers to strongly consider shifting our emphasis from students to the root cause of the problems at hand – the organizations themselves.

    --Jerlando F L Jackson, PhD, Dean and MSU Foundation Professor of Education, College of Education, Director and Chief Research Scientist, Organizational Disparities Laboratory, Michigan State University