September 23, 2005

Misplaced efforts

Jay at Wizbang is inspired by a Michael Jordan poster:

A while ago, I saw a Michael Jordan poster that had the following quote on it:

"I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."

That crystallized a sentiment I've had for years, and touched on briefly yesterday:

One of the most valuable things in life is failure.

Nobody's perfect, and only one person in the world can be the best. Everyone, eventually, will fail at something. And the quicker and better someone learns how to deal with that, the better their chances of success in life will be...

This should be intuitively obvious to most people, but a good chunk of them (mostly liberal, and often involved in education) want to "protect" children from learning this harsh reality. They ban competitive sports, outlaw keeping score, and suppress the notion of "failing" grades in the name of "protecting their self-esteem."

I've said it for years: attempting to give someone self-esteem is, in the long run, the most damaging thing you can do to someone. Anything someone else gives you, someone else can take away. The only self-esteem that counts is that which you earn, which you get honestly from your own efforts. "A for effort" is an obscenity.

I can't agree enough. It amazes me to see the number of people involved in the education field, or the journalistic field, who believe that effort should be involved when grading students, teachers, or schools. That isn't how life works. Michael Jordan might be working in Kmart today if his basketball coaches had said that his missed baskets were "good enough."

If you are in the real world and you are responsible for doing something right, the results from trying real hard, but not quite getting there, can range from personally disastrous (you get fired) to disaster on a truly large scale (the space shuttle blows up). Why should schools be exempt?

Giving A's for effort is not only dishonest, but cruel. If a person, or an institution, is putting a lot of effort towards a goal, and is still failing at it, the most useful and humane feedback they can recieve is an honest and timely description of their failure. Otherwise, how will they ever learn to try something else?

Posted by kswygert at September 23, 2005 04:22 PM