FAILURE AND FREDERICK-THE-LARGE
Serious, by Robert L. Crowe, 2011
The speaker questions the educational practice of labeling young people as failures. “People tend to become what we tell them they are.”
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An excerpt …
(an excerpt from the middle of the speech)
Schools ought to be places of success. Schools ought to be places where young people can come every day, and make mistakes, and not think of themselves as failures. The direct power of education is irrefutable. There is also an indirect power of education that reminds us that learning doesn’t always take hold at the moment of delivery. Some ideas take months and years to blossom. Some beautiful flowers take longer to bloom. The children are not now what they will be. What they will be is yet to be decided.
I know there are people who overcame the label of being a failure. We are fortunate that Edison, Einstein and many others shook the stigma of failure and provided the world with sterling service. Knowing that … I still have a problem and here it is. I submit to you that a grading and reporting system that brands children as failures should not have a presence in any educational environment. Most adults cannot handle rejection very well. Why should that negative experience be an integral part of the educational process? What is the benefit of placing a “failure” label on school children?
A little before my birth … well, it was in 1912 … George Bernard Shaw wrote the play, “Pygmalion.” One thing that I like about speaking to sophisticated audiences like this one is that I don’t have to explain the plot of Pygmalion … about the ignorant flower girl who, with proper training and support, passes herself off as a countess. And I got to thinking about that. What if the Pygmalion theory really works? What if people tend to become what we tell them they are? If our schools tell young people they are failures … maybe they will believe it. Conversely, with continuous instruction and reinforcement, maybe one of them will grow to believe she is a countess. Maybe one will believe he is an inventor. Perhaps one will believe she can become a television star.
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