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I heard a story on the BBC about a school in China that has been ordered to stop forcing underachieving or badly behaved pupils to wear green scarves instead of communist red. Seems the parents thought this lowered the kids self esteem.
I was never the best pupil. If I was a Chinese kid I'd look like an Asian Leprechaun with all the green I'd be forced to wear. But you have two choices when someone is failing at something -- point it out to them or change what they're doing.
Either way, you're going to tell a kid, "You're not as good as the other kids." The part that's missing is, "You're not as good as the other kids at this particular thing." But the choice taken here and in China seems to be, "You didn't fail, you're just as good as those other kids."
I understand the idea that you don't want to destroy a kid's will to show up and try, but people who never fail aren't very good at dealing with failure when it happens. And it happens. When I lose a contract to another company they don't pay me. When my team misses deadlines, my client doesn't say, "That's okay, just so long as you showed up."
This is something that many of my colleagues and I have talked about, well, ranted about, for years. We have a generation that wasn't told that they had failed. These kids barely passed high school, went on to college, graduated and are stuck occupying a city park with no message because they never expected to fail at anything.
They had every reason to expect jobs would be waiting for them. And they had no reason to think that those jobs might be crappy. It's certainly not the fault of a generation of over educated, under skilled special kids that the economy is a mess -- society is failing them because society told them they couldn't fail.
Houses will always go up in value. The stock market will always give you 10-20% return on your money. Get a college degree and you'll get a six figure job. We're all winners and we're all special.
Until we fail and then we don't have anyone who knows how to deal with failure.