“If I’ve learned anything about life it’s this: a knee without scars is evidence of a life unlived.” –Big Poppa E, “The Wisdom of Scars”
Today, like every day at school, I opened Internet explorer. Like every day, the Hickman website came up, and I began to sift through it for noteworthy items. The first thing that grabbed my eye was a large banner promoting an event called “Failure is NOT An Option.”
Respectfully, I would emphatically disagree. Failure is absolutely an option.
If we never fail, how can we learn? How can we possibly grow? In the 18 years I’ve been given on this earth, I’ve learned a whole lot, though when compared to all the knowledge out there, it’s admittedly not much.
The lessons I’ve learned, the ones I’ve taken to heart: they’ve been where I miserably failed, where I painfully screwed up. I never really learned that I needed to treasure my relationships with my family and my friends until, one day, I had the last conversation I’d ever have with my grandpa. I didn’t know at the time, and I’m ashamed to admit I wasn’t paying very much attention at all. The next day, my grandpa passed away, and that last phone call became something I’ll remember and regret for the rest of my life. But it taught me in a way nothing else could to treasure my phone calls and my time with my loved ones.
Likewise, I entered this school year quite (over)confident in my ability to succeed without much work in AP Calculus. It took a terrible grade on a test to teach me that I needed to put in time studying and working problems to succeed.
Failure must be an option. To invoke a cliché, if you help a butterfly struggle out of its cocoon, its wings will be weak, and it may never fly.
I understand the sentiment behind saying failure is not an option—that success is the only choice. But I’m concerned that this idea will lead to a malformed, weak, and underdeveloped generation of students who won’t know how to cope with failure, or what to do to succeed.
To quote Big Poppa E again, “Mistakes are the only thing that’s ever taught me anything.”
If you want to help lessen the achievement gap, then let failure be an option. Let students fail. Let them struggle. Then let them learn. And watch them grow.
By John Brooks