Failing to Understand Failure



Failure is a common fear of most high school students, despite its clear benefits.

Emily Withrow, Columnist

Many schools teach students to aim and achieve high grades to get into prestigious colleges or jobs. However, what many schools don’t acknowledge is the importance of failing.

Failure is a term that is feared by many, but embraced by few. Schools teach their students to look down upon failing, causing most students to correlate failure with the inability to succeed in school, and by extension, the inability to succeed in life. But this thought process is far from the truth. The term “failing” should not be avoided, but be a term that all students are comfortable with in school and in life itself.

According to a study done by Xiaodong Lin-Seigler of Columbia University’s Teachers College, the science grades of high school students improved when they were exposed to the struggles of notable scientists including Einstein and Marie Curie, compared to the students who only learned about these scientists’ success. Xiaodong Lin-Seigler also tested freshmen and sophomores of low-income New York City schools and observed that many of the kids thought of success as something untouchable that only some students could achieve. But success is not an attribute only some people are born with; success is the ability to learn from past mistakes. Success is the internal feeling of accomplishment after any obstacle has been overcome.

Failure is the internal process that leads to success, and therefore, something that should not be seen as a negative concept. Being able to fail does not demonstrate a person’s weakness, but it demonstrates the person’s strength to question and think creatively. Being able to get an “A” in a subject at school has no meaning if the student hasn’t experienced being wrong at some point; to them, that grade is a standard and reflects nothing about their ability to work for a high mark. Too many people base their self worth off of a standard that is unrealistic to all, which creates a low self esteem and a low sense of creativity. The ability to fail grounds people and is a necessary life skill to have not only in school, but also real life, because it encourages people to expand their values and ideas beyond what was previously thought. 

Failing should give people confidence and curiosity. Instead, students learn to fear it because of how society would inaccurately judge them. Learning and being wrong gets a person morally and academically further than those who fear failure. Those able to accept that personal growth is powerful and possible will be much more satisfied with their own happiness.