The Excitement of Learning From Profit and Loss

It’s often been said that the key to success is being able to handle failure. For example, from Winston Churchill: “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” Or C. S. Lewis: “One fails forward toward success.”

How can educators incorporate this wisdom to produce deeper learning? As many students, teachers and parents will attest, that’s not the way most schools operate, particularly public schools. The pressures on educators to use prescribed materials and teach to the test often leave little scope to allow students the freedom to learn through real-world experiences and to “fail forward.”

This is a big reason why 500,000 young people drop out of high school each year; they feel disengaged and uninspired; they fail to see how school is relevant in their lives.

The flip side is an opportunity. When students are given chances to take learning into their own hands, the results can be impressive. That’s been the experience of an educational program called Build, which makes it possible for low-income students, as part of their high school studies, to work in teams, conceiving, testing, and ultimately operating their own small businesses. In the process, they discover — often to their surprise — their potential to deal with unexpected problems, persist through failure, and create something that the world values.

Click here to read the full article in the New York Times.