Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Failure is in style

We are in a place where failure is glorified.  Why is that?   Is is because the mandated testing has created so many failures that we don't want kids to feel quite so bad so we try to give the impression that failure is somehow ok.   Well the fact is, failure is not good and should not be glorified.
Failure is when the system breaks down and there needs to be a complete re-start.  Failure is not when there is a misstep along the learning curve and a student simply needs to be retaught that step in the process.  Failure is not even coming close.   It is totally missing the target.
Teams that fail to win are not lauded for trying hard.   Marriages that end in divorce are not celebrated at anniversary parties.  Wars in the middle east are the result of failed peace talks; people are dead as a result.  These are no small things.
Over 50 years ago, Benjamin Bloom developed several taxonomies of learning.  These taxonomies can be used as benchmarks in the development of formative learning assessments.  The taxonomies are sequential learning indicators that measure the process of learning.   There is no memorization.  When students make mistakes on this ladder to learning, teachers can adjust teaching and move on again to climb the ladder.  If used correctly there are no failures, just readjustments in the teaching learning process.
Failure, on the other hand, requires a total reboot.  Firstly, the individual needs to take stock and personal responsibility.  The question of "why did I fail?" needs to be asked.  Unfortunately, we are living in an age when personal responsibility is seldom the first reason identified for failure.   The coach didn't like me so that is why I did not make the team.  The teacher was not any good and that is why I didn't learn enough.  The test didn't test what I thought it would.
Where is the personal assessment and responsibility in all this?   I didn't study enough.   I didn't practice enough.  I didn't go after class and ask the teacher to explain what I didn't understand.
In attributing the reasons for personal failure, it is important to distinguish between those that are within my power to fix and those that are not.  If I am short, I probably won't be a great basketball star.  If I have limited musical ability, music is probably not a good career choice for me.  BUT there are lots of other areas where if I do accept responsibility and agree with myself to do the work I need to do, then I can change the outcomes.
Failure should not be glorified by saying it is good enough because you tried.   While it is true that Edison had thousands of failures before he hit the right inventions, it is also true that had he not finally had success he would not even be a footnote to history.

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