Failure is all the rage. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or a kindergartener, the lessons of failure can be quite powerful. However, the key to failing successfully lies in what you get out of it. Unfortunately, our education system is not always set up to support failure for those students who could stand to learn the most from it.

We interviewed Jessica Lahey, author of The Gift of Failure, in our inaugural episode of Upgraded by Hobsons, a monthly podcast on education and student success. In that interview, Lahey shares her thoughts on the benefits that failure can bring to help enhance the learning experience for children. In her book, Lahey talks about the risk of “over-parenting,” providing a blueprint that allows children to learn from their failures and take responsibility for their actions, in school and at home. Listen to an excerpt here:



Lahey offers some common-sense advice on an old adage: We have to learn from our mistakes. However, it’s important to note that in order to truly embrace failure as a gift, we must also acknowledge as a society that not all failure is weighted equally.

In a recent New York Times op-ed, author Kate Losse quotes physicist Dan Zimmerman as saying, “We have one group who’s being told, ‘Don’t take a challenging subject like physics so that you can get your credential,’ and we have another group that’s being told, ‘Drop out of college and just mess things up and it’ll be fine.’ If you ‘fail fast’ and you don’t have the right demographics, the right safety net, you just fail.”

Losse suggests a certain “marketing” of failure has been built up around the not-so-overnight successes of billionaires who initially tried and failed, while ignoring the fact that many of those who have benefitted from failure had the support networks in place to fail gracefully and successfully.

Still, Losse also sees benefit in embracing failure, and raises an interesting point by writing, “If we really believe that failure is the path to innovation, we need to fund a more diverse group of innovators. And when some fail, as entrepreneurs often do, we should make sure that more than just the usual cast of familiar faces gets the chance to learn from that experience and try again.”

What do you think? How can we create learning environments where students learn from their mistakes?

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