Ancient Thinkers and Education

Marcus Aurelius is known for his pragmatic advice and he is considered one of the most important stoics one can learn from.    His writings are a foundation for any young professional searching for their identity.  Meditations is a must read.

Stoics discuss a view of life that is admirable.  They are wise, thoughtful, and “selectively spoken”.  They value education and connectedness.  They live through a special lens of life: they define the “suck it up” lifestyle.  Grit and persistence are qualities each stoic strives to embody.

Stoicism has recently gained attention in the blogosphere.  We see Ryan Holliday address it frequently Shane Parish obsess over it constantly.  What can educators learn from ancient thinkers?

A large part of preparing our learners for the 21st century is character education.  We realize that to be successful, they need to not only possess certain skills, but a certain way of critically approaching problems.  Stoics were teaching two of these important skills centuries ago: Grit and Persistence.

Angela Lee Duckworth received the 2013 Macarthur Award and received $625,000 to systematically study grit as a personality characteristic.  You won’t be surprised to hear what she has found.  Grit is an underrepresented characteristic but is one of the most important.  She has found that it may be more important as a success predictor than IQ.  According to Duckworth, the Stoics were right: the head down, suck it up, work hard mindset called grit is important.

What about persistence?  In The Adventures of Johnny Bunko, Daniel Pink outlines six concepts necessary for young professionals to understand.  Persistence trumps talent is perhaps the most important lesson learned while reading this graphic novel.

“The people who achieve the most are often the people that stick with it when others don’t.”

Pink argues that persistence is like compound interest.  In the way that interest builds on itself, a small improvement will help make an individual more persistent.  The cycle continues when the individual is intrinsically motivated.  According to Pink, the Stoics were right: anything worth knowing takes time and energy.

As educators, the take home lesson here is simple.  If we want our students to embody grit and persistence, we must lead by example.  Consider grit and persistence the next time you feel like walking away from a problem.

Thanks for reading.

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