Failure and Education

Because we cannot do what we want perfectly the first time we attempt something new, failure is critical in the learning process. If you don't fail when you try to do something, it is probably because you have already learned to do it. Doing something for the first time and failing at it are intimately intertwined. When children fail, they discover they need to expand their capabilities. Although they may be frustrated by initial failures, they are rarely so frustrated that they don't try and try again. Also, children are not embarrassed by failure until they get to school. It is there that their failures result in the ridicule of their peers and the approbation of their teachers. In school they learn to view failure as something to fear. The willingness of young children to fail is a critical prerequisite to their ability to learn. Without failure there is no second try, no thinking about what needs to be changed, what needs to be learned. The loss of this willingness to fail is highly detrimental to the very curiosity that drives education.

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