An Alaskan journalist's perspective on local and national issues

The Hammer of Failure

There is a rather ugly lesson that isn’t really shown in television or movies.  It is a lesson that people learn, and not a lot of people like.  The lesson that a person can try their hardest, but that doesn’t mean that they are going to succeed.  It’s really harsh to hear, but it’s true.  At the same time, while that lesson isn’t being taught, there is something that is being used as a hammer against the entire population – the hammer of failure.

The idea is that advisors, counselors and what have you will tell you that if you don’t do this and that and so on, you are going to be a complete and utter failure.  I cannot begin to tell you how much I have and am still hearing about this now.  You see, I am a smart guy.  I’m not an Einstein genius, but I am pretty smart.  Still, for being intelligent, I was not the best student.

Growing up, I got told by so many people who I was going to fail.  My parents said that I should just drop out of high school.  In hindsight, that might not have been the worst idea.  Public high school in America is a joke, and the punch line is that it is the best that so many of us have.  All the talks, all the pressure, and the endless line about how one is going to fail is just absolutely crushing sometimes.

But this is the tool that our academics seem to think is the most effective way to motivate kids.  It is pounded into their heads, day after day, and there are plenty of smart kids who just don’t do well in school, either because the way things are being taught to them doesn’t mesh with their personalities, or because our academics seem to think that there is a one-size-fits-all test that can determine how smart they are which clearly isn’t what its name implies.

People think that if we tell kids enough that they are going to fail, they are going to get movitated to succeed.  The reality is that if that were ever true, schools would have really high scores and grades.  But, as with issues like the right to bear arms or freedom of speech, the answer aren’t as clear-cut and neat as we would like to think they are.  The fact is that things are a lot more complicated, and students are not all cut from the same cloth.

The fact is that our education system is failing on such a monumental level because educators and the systems they are in have failed to realize the most critical thing that they should – each student is different and they don’t take in knowledge the same way.  Ironically, I am a person who learns by doing.  The only classes that I have really taken something from are the ones where I was out in the world working to create something.  But most college courses are NOT that.  They are a 3X structure – you go to class, have a big test in the middle, and a big test or project (or both) at the end.  That’s it.  That’s now how I and a lot of people that I know work.  I have a friend who is going to be one of the youngest surgeons in this country.  He is a brilliant mind, and has busted his ass because he doesn’t learn like their 3X structure works either.  Thankfully, he has had the luck of having professors to understand his dilemma, and work with him.

We need to stop hammering in that kids will fail if they don’t follow a certain path or do this or that.  Now, before you start thinking it, I am not one of those people who says that It Gets Better.  That is an outright lie, and we know it.  I merely believe that students are not as stupid as we give them credit for, and although some are, I think the bulk just haven’t found their niche.

The benefit is that in the modern age, finding a niche is so much easier, because the internet is open to all walks of life and ways of thinking.  Online, more and more opportunities are growing for more and more people, and while there are a lot who still fall through the cracks, the growth of the internet means that more people will have a way into a space, provided that they are a little proactive in making things happen.

But this attitude of – you’ll fail, you suck, needs to go.  Any educator who uses it, disregard them as a narrow-minded idiot, because that is what they are.  There will be instances where one will fail, and there will be times where a person can try their hardest and not succeed, but here’s the kicker – when we tell kids that they will get better, and that they will find a way, they will keep wanting to try.  When parents and teachers keep telling them that they will fail, they will, because they won’t have the self-confidence to even bother trying, and that is a crime, and absolute crime.

Education needs to get smarter.  Though that may be being a little too optimistic.  America, a nation that makes war against smart.

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Comments on: "The Hammer of Failure" (1)

  1. Reblogged this on Lucien Maverick's Blog and commented:

    Something that modern educators need to read.

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