A compelling lesson I learned from my then fifteen year old son in 2003.
After a particularly crushing career development meeting with his guidance counselor at school, My son Rich was visibly upset.
Richard is learning disabled with ADD and Ausberger's Syndrome. He had spent his entire school career in Learning Support.
In 2003, he made an appointment with his guidance counselor because he had a complaint about his teacher. His teacher would not let him take Japanese, something he was very passionate about learning.
During this meeting, Rich was told by his guidance counselor that his reading wasn't good enough to take Japanese or the other class he wanted, Computer Science (take apart and put computers back together again, troubleshoot, etc). Rich was a junior in high school. His grades were all A's and B's.
Richard countered that his grades have always been above board and his teacher's arguement did not support the decision not to allow him into those classes.
This is when the guidance counselor decided it would be in Rich's best interest to schedule another meeting when his mother could come in.
Fast-forward to meeting number two, with mom. I listened to this guidance counselor explain to Rich that in learning support, they get "graded differently" than their normal students. Rich had no idea he was reading on a third grade level . . . and aside from the yearly I.E.P. I saw where they wanted him to be, but not where he was. His guidance counselor told Rich that because he was only reading at a third grade level, he could not take the Japanese class, nor could he take the computer science class he wanted.
(Let me point out that this kid can get through and beat just about every computer game that is out, can read the gaming books and the japanese animie books that he contantly bought with his allowance).
In the car on the way back home, my son cried. I didn't know what to do for him. He is almost sixteen years old and he is crying because as he put it, he was led to believe he was at a certain level because of his grades, that he was doing good, only to be told that he was in fact far below where he should be. Suddenly he went into a rant that to this day, I think should be posted in every school across this country:
"Why? Why did they lie to me? Why are they so afraid I'm going to fail? I'm not afraid of failing!" He took a breath "Failing is how we learn? How am I going to learn anything if they don't let me fail? I'm not afraid of failing, THEY are afraid!" He took another breath and I pulled the car over "They need to let me fail because I only fail if I never try!"
Seems to me this kid was smarter than all the teachers he ever had. And I agreed with him. I took this rant as the gem of wisdom from a kid that despite the arguments from educators to the contrary, needed to experience failure. MANY kids need to experience failure.
Judging by our present state of our union, there are a few congressmen, CEO, companies and corporations that also need to experience failure. Because the cost of such lack of failure is costing the rest of us dearly.
My son still excells at computer games. He's become quite a consiencious young man and a deep thinker. He graduated high school with a 3.2 and the same third grade reading level. It is now 2009 and he reads at a sixth grade level. He's made more progess since leaving school because he's had to. He has no more crutches.
During one particularly bitter lesson recently involving employment, he was discussing with with me on the way to his brother's high school graduation. He asked me, "Why didn't you help me with the interview?"
I asked him, "Rich . . . you just experienced failure . . . something you at one time had asked for. Congratulations! How does it feel to be an adult?" The look I got in return should have been captured on Youtube. He was proud!
Look forward to failure . . . most of our greatest inventions were lying underneath a failed experiment.