The just-released issue of WORLD includes a review of Megan McArdle’s new book, The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success. You can get the gist of her thinking in “Go Ahead, Let Your Kids Fail,” an online article from Bloomberg News. McArdle writes about a 15-year-old who won’t take a course in which she might struggle, because any deviation from an all-A record might doom her Ivy League hopes.
McArdle rightly sees this as sad: “Now is when this kid should be learning to dream big dreams and dare greatly. Now is when she should be making mistakes and figuring out how to recover from them. Instead, we’re telling one of our best and brightest to focus all her talent on coloring within the lines.”
McArdle understands why this is happening: “We have become crazy on the subject of college. Now, more than ever, we view a college degree as an absolute prerequisite for a minimally decent life. And if we’re in the upper middle class, it has to be a degree from an elite school.” Thus the parental imperative: “To keep their kids from falling off the side, they’re pushing them harder than ever—micromanaging their lives, orchestrating things so that their children have as little opportunity as possible to go astray. It’s totally understandable. But it’s bad for the kids, bad for the parents, and bad for the nation.”
I’d hope that Christian parents would not be on that treadmill, but many are. The good news is that homeschooled kids are now getting into elite schools, and homeschooling allows room for dreaming and daring. Homeschoolers can study a subject and fail at it without getting an ineradicable sub-A on their permanent record.
Do you have examples (or are you an example) of failing well in a homeschool subject? For WORLD’s next Back to School issue we’re planning an article on the flexibility of homeschooling that allows parents to say, “Go ahead, fail and learn.” Please email WORLD reporter Daniel James Devine (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your examples.