If at first you don’t fail, then fail, fail again
The discussion around failure in education is often a contentious one. What is a teacher to do when a student fails to meet expectations? Educators have strong feelings about whether failing students sends a message and builds character, or sets them up for a vicious cycle of continued failure.
Two Sides to Failure
On the one hand, teachers cannot give constant extensions and extra credit, lest students come to expect these exceptions always be made. As noted in Edutopia’s When Helping Hurts, doing so may “raise a risk-averse generation whose members lack resilience and the crucial ability to rebound from failure.” The argument is that it’s enabling to cut students slack if they perform poorly—they have to work hard and rebound from failure as practice for the real world.
On the other side of the argument, many argue that experiencing failure does not prepare students for life after school. According to the Washington Post’s Jay Mathews:
There is virtually no research or evidence to suggest that higher incidents of failure in school produce higher levels of responsibility, greater academic achievement in college, or a higher likelihood of success in meeting the demands of adult life.
In fact, educator Valerie Strauss shows research findings indicate that experiencing failure can become a vicious cycle for students:
We may want kids to rebound from failure, but that doesn’t mean it’s usually going to happen… studies find that when kids fail, they tend to construct an image of themselves as incompetent and even helpless, which leads to more failure.
Teachers on this side of the argument say that students who are doing poorly in school need support, not a failing grade.