I have become the bane of my kids’ teachers existence. They go running when they see me.
Part of the reason is because I think school isn’t demanding enough. I’m sure they view me as one of those parents who thinks SO highly of their child and wants them to be in advanced everything. Maybe there’s a bit of truth to that, but I have an even more serious reason: I want them to be challenged.
The other day while talking to several fellow engineers on Twitter, the discussion turned to failing courses. It turned out that a lot of us had actually failed courses at some point during our career. Yet all of us had gone on to become engineers. Chris made the point that failing teaches us something. While I think it would be better to be given the tools to prevent failure, he is right: failure can teach you that life goes on and you can’t let it impact you.
Unless, of course, it does.
As it turns out, this is often the point where students will withdraw from an engineering major and either drop from school or switch majors. A fairly recent paper discusses interventions to the problem, arguing that most of it is caused by the lack of failure (which I read as challenge) prior to college. Students who go into engineering tend to be among the top high school students and simply can’t deal with the fact that they cannot perform as well in college as they did in high school. And, probably never having been in that situation before, they are the least likely to seek out help.
I personally feel this is an indicator that for the top high school students, school may still not be challenging. I say this as a student who took AP courses throughout high school and attended college while simultaneously completing my senior year of high school. Even lower level college classes really didn’t take significant effort to pass with reasonable grades. I really think that schools ought to make more effort to individualize instruction to allow students to progress at their own pace so that they can learn to deal with challenges well before entering college.