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This narrative analysis case study challenges the education reform movement’s fascination with “grit,” the notion that a non-cognitive trait like persistence is at the core of disparate educational outcomes and the answer to our inequitable education system. Through analysis of the narratives and meaning-making processes of Elijah, a 20-year-old African American seeking his High School Equivalency diploma, this case study explores linkages among dominant discourses on meritocracy, opportunity, personal responsibility, and group blame. Specifically, exposition of the figured worlds present in Elijah’s narratives points to the attempted obfuscation of social inequities present in the current educational reform movement and our broader society. This obfuscation present in the grit discourse and pedagogy aims to diminish the critical bifocality that is needed to understand and improve educational opportunity and outcomes.


This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article published in Urban Education, volume 52, issue 3, in 2017 following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version is available online at DOI: 10.1177/0042085915613557.

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