"Some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default."
JK Rowling articulated these wise words at a commencement address on June 5, 2008 at Harvard University. It is worth watching or reading the whole speech because it is brilliant. It is the epitome of what every parent of a child today should desire for their children: to fail.
That's right. I said it. LET YOUR CHILDREN FAIL.
For some reason there is this mentality today, in 2010, that children should always be happy, that they have to excel at everything, and that straight A's are the only acceptable possibility on their report card.
Disappointments in life are necessary to build character as well as learn humility and empathy. Just because parents have the means to provide their children with everything they could ever want doesn't mean THEY SHOULD! Make kids work for something and see what it's like to struggle and agonize. Allow them to get a C on their report card rather than emailing their teacher every time they fail a test. Let them play on a sports team that actually has winners and losers instead of this "everybody wins" mentality. Tell them to get a job if they want to go to Cancun for Spring Break rather than paying for the trip because you think they "earned it." (What I want to know is how you can "earn" a trip to a destination that glorifies binge drinking???) We are developing a nation of children who can't think for themselves and who feel a bombastic sense of entitlement because parents think they're doing right by their kids by giving them everything they want, fighting their battles, and shielding them from disappointment.
Failure lets us see who we really are. It helps us to gain perspective. It makes us truly appreciate the good times rather than always taking them for granted. If I hadn't failed as a music student in college I never would have discovered how much I love writing and literature. If I hadn't struggled and fallen on my face in my first few years of teaching, I never would have come to understand what I really believe in and what I'm willing to fight for in this life.
So what I wish for every child who enters my classroom is for them to fail - at SOMETHING - because that's the only way you learn - about life, about academics, and about how to be a productive member of the human race.
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