Losing the right to fail

Published 2:11 pm Friday, May 25, 2018

By Michael Cole


There is a word that has been bugging me lately. A term that I think as any one indication of America in trouble, it would be this one. Something that we have heaped upon society.

Participation Trophies.

No, I do not mean banning trophies, but the idea that in America we have taken away a fundamental right.

The Right to Fail.

Look at it. We give awards and trophies right and left so everyone feels included.

I would contend that by doing that we have made members of society feel entitled to success and recognition.

In my own experience, in the 4th grade I was largely out of shape (well, a potato has a shape, so maybe I did have a shape). I got winded when I walked, I had no real skills of the game.

I think the whole season I played maybe 15 or 20 mins total.

But the coaches at the end of the season gave me a soccer trophy.

At the time, I was proud of that trophy.

However, I think that it instilled the wrong message. I took away from that a simple fact. That not working out to be in the best shape I could be, by not paying attention in practice, or even being competitive, that I too could get a trophy.

Why push myself when I still received praise?

I never played another season of soccer.

In schools today, we have watered down grades to a point that they are meaningless. I worked for 10n years in education and my wife is in her third teaching year at Vidor, so we both have seen it.

Students are not held accountable, so grades have become a participation grade.

Back when I was in school, earning a A meant something. It meant that you had put in the work, the time, and the effort.

Today, an A in many respects means you occupied a chair.

Teachers are told that if more than so many of their students fail, they are in trouble.

Teachers do not hold students to due dates for assignments in fear of having too many students fail. The schools give out awards at the end of the year that in many cases is unearned.

So, when they pass they do not hold that as an achievement.

As they become young adults and the reality of life fits in, they have breakdowns.

Because we have taken away a fundamental right.

The right to fail.

I remember some of my greatest achievements were not what I learned from success, but what failure taught me. It taught me that if I want to win, I need to put that extra effort in it.

That I needed to hold myself to a higher standard.

That for the most part, at the end of the day, my success or failure was largely based on the dedication that I put into it.

I could exercise my right to fail.

And look at it. Watch a student that fails. See how they react. It is a near meltdown.

When they fail, they want to be able to redo it. They think that somehow were robbed of that win. They become belligerent, and in some cases a little violent.

It is everyone’s fault but the student that failed.

Let’s be honest, adults do it too. When a person loses their job, it is the boses fault, it is their coworkers. It is everyone but them.

We bail out super corporations after executives bleed a company dry through bonuses they did not earn, all under the premise of “too big to fail”

We count, count again, count some more on elections, And still the losing party accuses people of cheating. After all, the candidate was assured the people loved him, that he would win.

We have created a society that everyone is supposed to win; but no one is expected to do anything to earn it.

So we reward lackluster and dilute stellar. So no one strives, and no one achieves because we refuse to let people fail.

And of course, America by doing that, ironically is exercising its right to fail.