Some current received wisdom: failure is good for us because it’s a strong teacher, and American kids today don’t get to experience it enough because they’re bubble-wrapped through life.
Both ideas have a lot of truth to them, but there’s another that needs to get out there, too:
American kids do still experience failure–constantly–but it’s been completely neutered.
Young people don’t fear failure, nor do they learn from it, though many of them will fail test after test, class after class, all the way through their school career.
Why? Because what happens after those failures? Increased practice? Shame? Loss of privileges?
Nope. Nothing. After the vast majority of daily school failures in this country, for the average teenager, life will proceed normally, as if nothing bad had happened at all.
We, as parents and school personnel, not only don’t hold their feet to the fire, we actively intervene to soften the natural consequences of failure.
In a climate like that, how could students possibly be expected to learn anything about academics, much less life? Where’s the incentive?
If anything, they learn that failure is harmless and that hard work is pointless. These lessons would prove terrifying in the real world if the real world itself weren’t increasingly so bent on maintaining that status quo…