Bring Back the Failure


Somewhere over the last two or three decades, our society has fallen into a state of political correctness where children are taught that everybody wins.  Youth sports give out participation trophies and children are always told they are winners by parents, teachers, and public officials.  This creates a generation of entitlement, as many people believe that they “deserve” to get good grades, have a great job, earn a high salary, or ultimately be successful in life without putting in the work necessary to achieve that goal.  Yes, some people may have to work harder than others to achieve a certain goal, but everyone is capable of doing so.

Many areas of youth sports are guilty of political correctness in the use of participation trophies.  By giving everyone an award, winning is devalued and children are not taught how to handle failure.  There is then no incentive to work hard to get that trophy and it sets many young kids up for disappointment when they get older, as mediocre efforts are no longer rewarded.  Children who have been praised their whole life are likely to shy away from a difficulty for fear of failure.  They may take the easy way out, try to cheat, or do the minimum to get by, yet they would still expect to go to a great college or get an offer from a high-paying job.  Failure makes people stronger and makes it that much sweeter when people are awarded based on their merits.

I propose that we reinstate the merit-based society that was seen in previous generations and help children learn at an early age that they will not be given things in life and that every accomplishment must require a certain amount of work.  If we transition away from a society of entitlement, we will restore the American Dream mentality among U.S. citizens.  The change mainly will come from society as a whole, as parents, teachers and public officials must make conscious efforts to let the children fail.

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6 comments on “Bring Back the Failure

  1. I totally agree with you! It really frustrates me that young children are taught to expect awards for their actions, even sub par actions. We’re grooming a generation of under achievers with trophy cases full of 11th place ribbons. It’s just ridiculous. Kids need to learn what it really means to succeed and sports are the perfect outlet for that (as long as there are real winners and real losers).

  2. I agree that learning grit, to recover from failure is an important trait and we should do more to encourage it. However, I am not participation trophies for 6 year olds is the crucial place.

    How about more outdoor education and challenges in elementary and grade school so people develop the skills to learn from failure?

    I see a lot of hyper-grade awareness at Bucknell. If I suggest to my students that we need to lower grades, they tend to get very anxious. Did they come here that way already?

  3. I think a more positive version of what you have in mind is to create more meaningful rewards tied to work and skill (as opposed to simply failing more people). It is like this. I can scream at kids on the soccer field that they suck and tell one kid each practice he is the best. Or I can tell all of them what is needed to earn not just a participation trophy, but like a “black belt” in soccer skills. Which system do you think will both reach that work has rewards and produce more skilled players?

  4. I agree with you completely. I’ve noticed that the concept of “everyone wins” has been becoming more and more used lately and it really bothers me. In reality, everyone does not win. Young people need the concept of failure because it is simply a part of life. Sometimes, in order to succeed at something, you have to fail, maybe even multiple times. If we prepare kids with this notion earlier, they will be more prepared in the real world when the time comes.

  5. Agreed, mediocrity is a disease that our nation deals with everyday. When people are settling for 2nd and 3rd place, we as a whole are not progressing with the other nations that only strive for first.

  6. Pingback: Blog Review – Let’s Get Ethical | Stakeholderdoce

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