“Energy and persistence conquer all things.” Benjamin Franklin
SEL Connection: The word we use now is ‘grit’, which is essentially the very same behavioral trait endorsed by Franklin in the 18th century. Kids want to be successful but also like to give up when the going gets tough. Sticking with something that doesn’t work or that causes some sort of pain is just not something kids want to endure. Evidence of the lack of ‘grit’ abounds in school. It’s the student who wants to drop the math class after three weeks and only one poor score on an exam. Or it’s the athlete who quits the team when he is excluded from the starting lineup. Failure hurts emotionally and intellectually and so out of a desire to protect ourselves, we give up.
(1) Claim: Benjamin Franklin is implying here that a person’s success is not a function of talent and ability. He’s contending that it’s really more about persistence. He’s got a good point. Sticking with something through mistakes is not an easy thing to do, but for those who adopt this mindset, it can lead to great success. Just think of athletes. The basketball player who fails numerous times before perfecting that jumpshot ends up being successful. And that student who sticks it out past that initial poor score on the exam is often able to recover and learn way more than he would have in an easier environment.
(2) Counterclaim: According to Franklin, persistence can overcome anything, even failure on the road to success. Well, how does natural ability play into this equation? Some people are born with certain natural abilities they did not learn. Some students are just good at math; they always set the curve and they rarely study for the exams. Some people are just great athletes with very little practice. So yes, persistence may be important, but sometimes it’s somebody’s raw talent that overcomes the obstacles.
(3) Essential Question: Is natural ability or persistence a more important ingredient to success in life?