TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Go Ahead, Let Your Kids Fail

Following up on my prior post, Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success:  Bloomberg, Go Ahead, Let Your Kids Fail, by Megan McArdle:

UpI’m on the road this week, giving talks on my new book [The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success (2014)] about learning to fail better: that is, first, to give ourselves the permission to take on challenges where we might very well fail; second, to pick ourselves up as quickly as possible and move on when things don’t work out. This is, I argue, vital on a personal level, as well as vital for the economy, because that’s where innovation and growth come from.

The other day, after one of my talks, a 10th-grade girl came up and shyly asked if I had a minute. I always have a minute to talk to shy high school sophomores, having been one myself.

And this is what she asked me:

“I understand what you’re saying about trying new things, and hard things, but I’m in an International Baccalaureate program and only about five percent of us will get 4.0, so how can I try a subject where I might not get an A?”

I was floored. All I could think as I talked to this poor girl is “America, you’re doing it wrong.”

I was 15 in 10th grade. If you can’t try something new in 10th grade, when can you? If you can’t afford to risk anything less than perfection at the age of 15, then for heaven’s sake, when is going to be the right time? When you’re ready to splash out on an edgy assisted-living facility?

Now is when this kid should be learning to dream big dreams and dare greatly. Now is when she should be making mistakes and figuring out how to recover from them. Instead, we’re telling one of our best and brightest to focus all her talent on coloring within the lines. This is not the first time I’ve heard this from kids and teachers and parents. But I’ve never heard it phrased quite so starkly. ...

Do we want a society that dreams new things and then makes them happen? I hear that we do, every time I hear a teacher, or a politician, give a speech. So why are we trying so hard to teach the next generation to do the exact opposite?

Book Club, Legal Education, Tax | Permalink


Smart kid.

Posted by: No, breh. | Mar 4, 2014 12:03:55 PM

Maybe, because as a society we have become very dependent on credentials and status. When colleges look for any means to differentiate between students, I doubt many will care that you got a B in Ancient Tunisian History because you were looking to diversify your education from your strengths in science. We have a dog-eat-dog society, and failure is an option for those who believe they have a comfortable safety net to catch them. We should be asking why our kids are feeling like they do not have the safety net, more than saying they should chance failure.

Posted by: Daniel Waters | Mar 5, 2014 7:59:39 AM