View RSS Feed


Are we as a society becoming OK with failure?

Rate this Entry
Throughout my life, I've asked this question several times.

Let's look at some examples where we're basically saying "it's OK you failed, let's make it so that you don't have to learn from your failure":

Grade curves in school/college. Why do we offer curves for classes that you either pass or fail? If you did really bad on a test, you should get a really bad grade. Why should someone who got a 50% all of a sudden get a 65%, when they didn't know the material the first time around? Curves don't affect people who score consistently well anyway, so curves can just be considered a way to tell people it's OK to be mediocre. If I were to have things my way, anyone who gets below a 50% on a test immediately gets a 0 on said test. If subsequent tests prove that you are improving, the grade will be restored to a 50%. There is NO excuse for mediocrity in the professional world, why is there an excuse in the academic world?

On a less serious but very related note, gaming drills this into people as well. Let's look at some more examples:

World of Tanks Premium accounts. The Premium accounts in World of Tanks (that you pay for) give the account an extra 50% experience and credits in every battle. Normally, a pretty bad battle results in you losing at least some credits from repairs/rearmament. With Premium, people rarely lose credits unless it's a REALLY bad battle. This system teaches you pretty quickly that anything more than just showing up and shooting people will get you where you want to go. People who don't use Premium that find success are typically quite a bit more skilled than similarly performing people with Premium accounts. For example, my average experience per battle is 500xp, which is about average for someone without Premium. With Premium, it would probably be 750. However, because I know I won't have to do as well in battle to reach the average I dealt with while not having Premium, I probably will not see any significant gains in credit or experience intake.

Some games provide bonuses for either coming back from a bad round of deaths or literally give you advantages for dying a lot. Example 1 being the death streak bonuses in the Call of Duty series. Die a certain number of times, and you get some bonuses that help you even the playing field. Example 2: come-back bonuses in both Call of Duty and Battlefield 3, in which if you die multiple times in a row, then finally kill someone, you get extra points. Again, it seems like we're instilling a sense that failure is OK, and that getting lucky will make everything better.

We're teaching people that shooting for the lowest denominator is the best course of action, rather than striving for excellence and thinking and working intelligently. This may be a rather bleak way of looking at the world, but I just failed a quiz and got a 79% on a test. I am currently in an Honors program that demands you maintain a 3.0 GPA. If I keep this up, then I'm going to lose the $2000 a semester scholarship that is provided by that Honors program. On top of that, I won't be prepared for the real world where I am EXPECTED to perform without any errors, or else face dire consequences.

Submit "Are we as a society becoming OK with failure?" to Digg Submit "Are we as a society becoming OK with failure?" to Submit "Are we as a society becoming OK with failure?" to StumbleUpon Submit "Are we as a society becoming OK with failure?" to Google


    Madmax (Grape)'s Avatar
    Being less afraid of failure is necessary for entrepreneurship. Otherwise fewer new things would be researched, fewer businesses started, etc. So in some ways, fear of failure (and consequences of) is detrimental.
    (2)manno's Avatar
    Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools they have abolished failing grades and they'll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.
    kyle700's Avatar
    I think the grading curve is more of a thing so that the BEST students don't fail. Huh, now that I say it that way, it does make sense...
    I guess the only place I would want to see a grading curcve in school is in a hard/advanced class. It's a protection against the "every student failing" debacle, which probably hurts the teacher almost as much as the student...

    With games, I completely agree. Gaming should be challenging enough to be entertaining, fun, and give you something to strive for, but it shouldn't be so difficult just for the sake of being difficult. Some games don't have either of these, like Call of Duty. It doesn't strive to give people that challenge, I think. It seems like older games are more difficult because they don't baby you! I've always found the games that are hard enough to give you a challenge have always been the most enjoyable. It's a little off topic regarding failure, but failure and easy seem to go hand in hand in some context.