The historical fixed mindset

I have recently had personal and educational acquaintance with the term “Mindset”.
The academic champion of this term is Carol Dwek of Stanford University, who wrote her book “Mindset, The New Psychology of Success” in 2006.
The idea behind Dwek’s theory is that the way that we see ourselves in either a positive or negative way drives our actions. Thus, in mathematics, a person with a “growth mindset” (a belief in their ability to succeed and to overcome obstacles) will ultimately have greater success than a person with a “fixed mindset”, who gives up easily and lacks the self-belief that is crucial to success.
I said above that I have had recent acquaintance in a personal way with this term and that is because I heard it recently stated by the husband of one of my wife’s friends. His wife had to lose a lot of weight in order to have an operation on her knee. The motivation of getting away from chronic pain was a huge carrot to her and she had, in the words of her husband, “developed a mindset to lose the weight that overcame her desires to eat large quantities of food”.
In an educational setting, I have been involved in a course from Stanford University” on learning mathematics. The course is run by Professor Jo Boaler who spends a lot of time calling for the development and fostering of a “Growth Mindset” in classes in order for students to have success in mathematics. She even has a number of videos featuring an interview she did with Carol Dwek about the subject.
This idea of “Mindset” made me think of the wider aspect of how society and in particular, culture, has defined our way of thinking throughout history.
I have been a product of the changing social and economic thinking of the last half of the twentieth century and now the early part of the twenty-first century. The one massive change I have experienced is the huge growth of media,which in many ways reflects and defines our way of thinking.
Looking at Victorian Britain, I see the characters in their famous novels and plays talking of a  world defined by concepts formed by religious belief and a willingness to accept defined roles within society.
I therefore believe that there was a “Fixed Mindset” that closed in possibilities for achievement and change for so many. This  attitude is seen in the way that academic research into intelligence concentrated on a belief that we have a “fixed” Intelligence Quotient. There were of course even more sinister aspects of this way of thinking which led to a view of racial and social inferiority and acceptance of practices of division and provided academic justification for subjugation of so many of the world’s population.
I feel that we have moved on in so many ways due to the massive economic and social changes that have accompanied our move into an inter-connected global, digital village. One of the things I do see changing is the attitudes of so many of our youth to the fixed notions and culture of their parent’s generation.
My biggest proof of any of this is to try and imagine this post, with its ideas and attitude, being written 50 or 100 years ago. Maybe in a hundred years time some historian will notice this post in some odd discovery of a very little known digital memory from a bygone age and laugh that we ever thought to discuss an openness of mind, because “doesn’t everyone think openly always?”

About malbell

I am a retired Teaching and Learning Consultant. Previously I was a Primary school headteacher and deputy headteacher. I enjoy reading, doing MOOCs and learning new things.
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