THE CONSEQUENCES OF FAILURE
Failure to achieve things is part of the human condition. Everyone fails at things from time to time. The question thus becomes who is ultimately responsible for such failures and what should be done about it?
I set my alarm but fail to get up when it goes off. I oversleep and thus am late to work. Who is responsible for such failure, to arrive at work on time? If it happens only once and I remain at work after “quitting time” to catch up, then no big deal for sure. But what if such happens on a regular basis, or I am so hung over when I arrive at work that I cannot work safely, then who exactly should bear the consequences of such failure? Is not the answer clear as a bell?
I receive government funding in the form of food stamps to feed myself and my family. Yet there is not enough food on the table to do so, feed myself and my family in a healthy manner. Whose fault is that? What if one or more of “us” at that table are obese? Whose fault is that? What if Dad or Mom always has plenty of “beer”, or several big TVs, etc. but there is not enough healthy food to eat, in a government subsidized home perhaps? Whose fault is that?
A homeless person freezes to death on a cold winter night, sleeping outside. Whose fault is that?
A single individual works a normal lifetime but lives day to day on all the money earned throughout his or her working years. They reach age 65 and stop working but do not have the money to live comfortably thereafter. Whose fault is that?
For about 5 weeks I volunteered to help some “marginal kids”, students in our local high school that were failing a freshman science course. My job was to teach them enough science such that they could perhaps at least pass the course for one semester. I failed, miserably, in that effort. I started with 5 kids and about 5 weeks later there was not a single one of them that could stand a chance of passing a freshman science course. Hell they would fail a 5th grade math course, or a 4th grade reading course, much less have the skills to put elementary reading and math skills together to even begin to understand a freshman high school science course. Whose fault is that?
Note the underlying and common question in each example above (or write your own examples of failure) asking who was at fault for each failure. If you say anyone other than the individual failing then I suggest you have your “root causes” all screwed up.
Now I could easily take any of the above examples to confirm my point that “Granma”, the “failing student”, the homeless man, etc. and pull the string far enough back in their lives (long or short lives) to show why they reached such a point in their lives. In each case there were multiple failures along the way suggesting the future might well not be all that good for them. But as each failure, little ones initially, occurred in their lives, they failed to take corrective actions themselves to no allow such failure to continue in their lives. In the “end” terrible consequences happened, to “Granma”, the “failing student”, the homeless man, etc., etc.
Now how do you “fix” such a systemic problem in individual or collective lives? I suggest that initial failures should not be tolerated. And when repeated failures happen in individual lives then the consequences of such failures should be intolerable to them as individuals, early on, such that continued failure does not leave them in the hands of “society” to deal with, later on.
To make this controversial point I use a “generic kid” as my example, a 14 year old boy. He has spent more time in In School Detention ((ISD) than in a regular science class for the first two months of school. His GPA for science is about 20% (0.20). Yet he arrives in “class” saying he does not need help in science as he already knows “that stuff”. He then plugs in his headset to his school provided computer to listen to music during a “class”, ignoring any and all efforts to teach him any “science”.
OK, you give him a written quiz, asking him to perform some simple, elementary school math problems, four of them. He writes IDK on the space provided for each question. That means “I don’t know” by the way. Ask him why he “does not know” the answer to the question of 2 x ½ = ? His reply is, yep, “I don’t know”?
Ask that kid what he did in science call today? He says “we shot marshmallows at each other using catapults made in class”. Ask him what he did the day before and he says he watched a movie of kids making rockets. Ask him what he will study in science class tomorrow and he will say, yep, “I don’t know”. Yet here is a kid, a 14 year old freshman in high school that cannot (or will not try to) multiply a whole number and one fraction.
I in no way attempt to blame the school for this kid’s failure. Sure there are all sorts of “maybe we could do this or that” type of attempts to “turn him around”. But there are hundreds of other kids, some of whom at least TRY to learn something and not just sit back and say “I don’t know” and leave it at that.
You see, all you worry wart progressives, that kid has absolutely no fear of such failure. He doesn’t even consider the inability to multiply a whole number and a fraction as a failure for a freshman in high school. And for damned sure, if the kid even agreed that failure to do simple elementary school math (or reading, etc.) in high school is in fact a failure, he would be very quick to blame someone else for such failure. Care to hear that kid’s critique of “teachers” in general? Stand by for some four letter words, “assholes” being one written down by that same student when asked the question.
One other example offered. Recently there was major media coverage of a school bus full of kids (in Dalton, GA) raising hell. The school bus driver called 911 for help and two cops showed up to calm what might have been a “riot” of sorts, certainly behavior a school bus driver could not control. Of course the story was the cops used foul language, were later disciplined, etc. for “conduct unbecoming” or some such stuff. But not a word about what was done to the rioting students or why the cops were needed in the first place, not a word in such media coverage.
Now go blame the school for such behavior, right? Or the cops for using foul language with a bus full of hoodlums. Or the parents for letting their kids act in such a manner, or the government for not putting guards on school buses, or whatever other blame on others you might care to use.
I would also love to read the headlines had the cops just showed up, lined up every kid on the bus and put each one in plastic cuffs, carted them, each and every one of them, to the station and arrested the whole gang for “assault”. Then let the lawyers and social engineers sort out who did what to who and why!!!
Now back to my original premise. All humans fail from time to time. But when the consequences of such failure are painful, all humans do something to not fail in the same manner again, and again. Put your hand on a hot stove, once and probably you will not do it again, at least in the same manner. But if your hand does not get burned, well why bother to do anything different, right???
I urge readers of this essay to NOT think I am focusing on just schools or our system of public education to make the broader point of our inability to hold people accountable in society for failures of many different sorts. Nor do I imply it is a problem just within our system of justice, meaning we need tougher laws, more cops, etc.
Rather I submit the problem of not allowing the consequences of failure to run its course at the individual level is a broad societal problem that must be examined. We as a society must, as well, be willing to recognize failure when it happens and not try to diminish it, make excuses for it, blame someone else for it. Tell a kid to stay away from a hot stove. Then when he burns his hand on the stove don’t try to blame “the cat” for bumping into him!! And for damn sure, don’t blame the government if the kid has to use only ice and butter on his burned hand and not have “free HC” to treat the wound as well.
On the other hand, go ahead and blame the EPA or OSHA for the kid burning his hand. After all there “outta be a law (or regulation)” requiring child proof fences around all hot stoves, right!!