"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Poor Kids Tend to Have a Fixed Mindset while Rich Kids Tend to Have a Growth Mindset

Whether skills are inborn or cultivated through practice may influence how much effort a child would exert in school. Dweck and coworkers at Stanford University have worked on studying this psychology factor. They recently published an article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA. The study which takes advantage of data from more than a hundred thousand tenth graders in Chile demonstrates quite a strong correlation between the income of the family a child belongs to and the mindset, either fixed or growth, the child holds. In addition, learning outcomes as measured by standardized exams are also correlated with mindset. Average scores of students within any given income group are shown to correlate with a child believing that intelligence is not fixed, and can be developed through diligent work.

Above copied from
Susana Claro, David Paunesku, and Carol S. Dweck. Growth mindset tempers the effects of poverty on academic achievement. PNAS 2016 113 (31) 8664-8668; published ahead of print July 18, 2016, doi:10.1073/pnas.1608207113

Data also show that at the lowest income decile only about 10 percent believes in a growth mindset while more than sixty percent subscribes to a fixed one, and at the highest decile, the numbers are roughly equal between the two mindsets. A fixed mindset, of course, sounds the same as a "dead end". In societies where the wealthy becomes richer and the destitute becomes poorer, social mobility is often non existent. It is therefore not surprising that a mindset a child takes also correlates with socio-economic status. Opportunities are often drawn along social classes. Resources are likewise tilted to favor those who are already ahead. Thus, it only follows Markovnikov's rule: Those that have, get.  At first, it might look that the mindset alone determines learning outcomes. The graph, above, however, shows that the gap between the two mindsets is widening with poverty. There is a bigger gap among children who are poor. Mindsets obviously mirror only how our society really operates. It is something children likewise learn from schools where we often enshrine our strongly held beliefs of inequality and competition. It should be obvious that what is necessary is to address these inequalities. Simply teaching kids to have a growth mindset does not really tackle the problem at hand. A growth mindset, like any value, is caught not taught.

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