The possibility of failure in education

As a 2012 high school graduate, I witnessed firsthand what many people in the education field refer to as the “generation of wimps.” It started when I was in elementary school, where nobody got “grades,” but rather numbers which denoted how they were doing in a class. Needless to say, I never knew if I was doing particularly well or poorly. This was an effort by my elementary school to make sure that the kids didn’t tease one another for not being as smart as the rest.

The participation trophy

The whole time I played organized sports as a kid, everybody got a trophy. The “participation trophy,” an invention of my parents’ generation, was created to make sure that no kid felt left out or that they (or their team) were a failure. Then, in middle and high school, I saw countless kids crying over bad grades, only to eventually get them changed with a lot of help from mommy and last-minute “extra credit.” I saw people slack off for the first 75% of the semester, only to eventually pull out that A- because they cried enough to get their way or because the structure of the class was such that not getting an A was a near impossibility.

Then, as I went off to college, I saw these same kids in my classes. These kids, not too surprisingly, were operating under the assumption that, despite the fact that they lacked the proper work ethic, study skills, or, to be honest, raw intelligence required to pass a class, they would still be able to pull out an A or B no problem. Around week 7 of fall quarter, many of them were proven horribly wrong. And by then there wasn’t really anything they could do about it.

Why does this matter?

My generation, it seems, is raised in an environment where failure is almost impossible. But, in the real world, failure is all too common. But, as with nearly everything else, you need practice to be “good” at failing. What I mean by this isn’t that you do poorly really well, but that you know how to bounce back after a failure, or to recognize when you aren’t capable of doing something. This is the sort of practice my generation never really had, and it leads to some bad unforeseen consequences.

Upon arriving at college, students my age (for the most part) don’t really know how to deal with failure. But, eventually, many of them will fail, either on a test, a paper, or an entire class. Or, as with many others, they won’t know when to work harder to do better. But, without knowing how to deal with failure or how to fix the problem they find themselves dealing with, many view this as the “end of the world.” And this is why, in current years, psychological aid centers on college campuses nationwide have become much busier. The students don’t know how to deal with what is going on, and it drastically affects their abilities to live life effectively.

Closing thoughts

At least in my opinion, we should let kids fail. That way they will know how to do it later on, if they have to. The possibility of failure is a very strong motivator, one that many kids in my generation don’t feel until it is almost too late.

About the author: John Monts is a creative writer for Lift Education, your source for fast degrees online. John is currently a student at UC Davis, studying Political Science and Economics.

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