Obsession with failure is plaguing our schools

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Erika Holmberg

Juniors Deen Naire and Jacey Sorensen obsess over who got a lower test grade.

Erika Holmberg, Copy Editor

At a young age, children are taught that lessons in life can only be learned through experiencing failure. Although this is true, many students have taken this concept too far and have created a bigger problem: an obsession with failure. 

The curriculum at PVHS is designed to allow students to thrive academically while being faced with scenarios that can induce immense failure. Such instances consist of essays, tests, speeches and more. 

Although the ultimate goal of failure is to help an individual learn and improve, this concept has been drowned by the negative repercussions of the obsession students have with failure. 

In various conversations throughout high school hallways and classrooms, students try desperately to one-up each other on how poorly they think they did on an exam or an assignment. Because of this, students study less for their exams if they receive this validation from their classmates. 

The result is abysmally low academic performance. 

Psychologically, students feel comforted by the failure of others around them. Because of this, students will put in less effort if it means that someone else did slightly worse than them on a test or assignment. Academically, the student could have easily earned a better grade if they would have tried harder, but the low standards set by their peers leave the student unmotivated but satisfied. 

This theory is backed up by many misguided students throughout PVHS. Senior Catherine Moore often feels belittled by the good grades of her fellow peers. “I am fortunate to be surrounded by incredibly intelligent people, but sometimes I feel like I’m lacking intelligence-wise in some of my classes, which makes me obsessed with my grades and doing the best I can,” she stated. 

This hunger for failure can be attributed to the high level of academic competition seen across high schools nationwide. With PV just recently having earned the Blue Ribbon Award, a high level of academic stress is left on the plate of many students. “Our school, being a Blue Ribbon School, is known for our great academics, and I constantly feel the pressure to be perfect with my grades as a result of my peers and my high expectations for myself,” expressed Moore.

To cope with such stress, students have turned to any outlet that will allow them to accept failure while bypassing the negative repercussions that come with it. 

Despite the negative effects of obsessing over failure, many students use this idea to their advantage. Senior Arsh Manazir does not fear failure as much as he uses it to fuel his academic success. “The fear of failure gives me the drive to work harder. I believe that people should be afraid of failure but should not dwell on it if they fail,” expressed Manazir. 

Failure is healthy and necessary for moral and academic growth, but when it fuels laziness and poor effort, it  loses its purpose. 

If PV wants to make their education more valuable to students, then negative academic discussion needs to shift to a more glass-half-full type of scenario. Instead of asking how poorly a student did on a test, ask them how well they did. A simple shift in perspective can set the stage for higher educational motivation. 

PV may be a high-achieving school now, but if these obsessive habits are not stopped, then it is only a matter of time before its academic success falters.