by Bernie Furshpan


We’ve all used the saying “Live and Learn,” from the mistakes we make, tiny or large, failures or faux pas.  However, sometimes I catch myself repeating miscalculations and it makes me wonder if I’ve truly learned from my blunders or perhaps I’ve embraced them as part of my uniqueness.  I have a thought about teaching the young that learning from their mistakes is so powerful. We can show them how to curtail their recurrences — and it starts in their schooling.

Young students learn quickly that they are graded for their ability to retain information or accurately calculate data from the very start of their education.  Hence, their categorization and labeling of their intelligence somewhere in the spectrum between dumb and brilliant forces children to judge their own abilities.  Their lives are severely impacted because of bombardments of tests that reinforce whether they are successes or failures.  Failure labels do no good for kids in the short and long term.  It actually hurts them in how they perceive their abilities and how they address their situations.  With failures, there’s embarrassment and withdrawal.  Not only do people miss out on opportunities that they’re not willing to risk because of the fear of humiliation, but the world losses out on their full potentials as participants in society.

My solution is to give kids the opportunity to show that they learned from their mistakes. It will benefit them in every way and for the rest of their lives.  How do I propose we do this?  By giving them the chance to retake a test.  It affords them the opportunity to study the questions they answered incorrectly and learn why they made the mistakes to begin with.  The result of retaking a test soon after the initial one rewires them to look differently at information and the process of studying.  They’ll become more aware of what to look for before taking the initial test and I theorize that the quantity and quality of mistakes will be fewer over time.

I propose that a formula, some kind of algorithm be developed that calculates the % of improvement between the initial test and the retake, as well as overall improvements in test-taking over time. Positive reinforcement should be given to those that demonstrate improvements, and not just the initial highest scoring tests.  In this way, looking at failures in a different way, as an opportunity to show how you learned from them seems to me to be a better way to develop into a positive and healthy person in society.  The results will be self-evident – fearlessness in trying new things, the willingness to take chances and learning from mishaps.  We’ll live in a world with doers who don’t self-judge and who are inclined to take risks in life, love and work.