“About Failure . . . and Success”

Alfie Kohn, in an essay that appeared in The Huffington Post on October 3, 2012, argues that children experience enough disappointment in day-to-day life that adults do not need to feed into the popular belief that failure “motivate[s] them to try even harder next time and prepare[s]” them “for the rigors of the unforgiving Real World.” In fact, he goes on to say that “The idea that ‘kids today’ have it too easy is part of a broader conservative worldview that’s been around for a long, long time. Children are routinely coddled and indulged, overprotected, and overpraised. But I’ve been unable to find any data to support this claim . . . there’s simply no proof that that the phenomenon is widespread, much less that it’s more common today than it was 10, 20, 50 or 100 years ago.”

On Saturday my UCSD students read and responded to an essay in a two-hour writing exam. Wednesday, when they receive their scores, many will experience failure.

So can I take a moment to coddle, praise, and indulge?

To my students: If you experience success, congratulations!

But if you wake to the news that you must retake the class, retake the exam, and try to pass next time, I would like to say a few words. Words that I try to live by. “Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret” (Don Miguel Ruiz). And I know you did your best, and for that you should be proud. I am.

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