Failure is not an option, it’s a requirement

Those who would like to reduce the number of trials to limit the number of errors will be left with mostly errors.

My view is that you have to try lots of things to find what works. Systems that limit trials and don’t clean out the errors are less likely to discover as much good stuff as systems that allow for lots of trials while cleaning out the errors.

I think of this when discussing education. Allowing for trial and error in education is often unacceptable to my discussion opponents.

They say, There’s no room for experimentation when it comes to education. Failure is not option. No kids should have to suffer from a failed experiment. We just have to figure out what works and do that for everyone.

Then they go onto support some sort of quasi-top-down solution. Some single department of education just has to figure out what works and make all schools do that. Something like the Federal Department of Education and the common core curriculum.

Sounds simple and doable. But, there’s a few holes in that.

Hole #1: How exactly do they figure out what works? It seems there has to be some level of experimentation that goes on to do that.

Hole #2: What about the kids in schools that fail to teach but don’t fail to survive?

If they are so vehemently opposed to the potential error of the trial-and-error process, why aren’t they as vehemently opposed to the errors that have continued to survive for decades? These are “failing” schools (in the sense that they don’t educate children), but they don’t “fail” (in the sense they keep their doors open) because they are funded by tax dollars whether they educate well or not.

Hole #3: They assume there’s a one-size-fits-all approach to education that will work for all students. They fail to see that one-size-fits-all solutions exist nowhere else.

Hole #4: They fail to realize that even in a trial-and-error process, failure will be limited. Most of education is pretty good. We know, for example, that if kids practice math and spelling, they get better at it. That doesn’t seem that hard.

What the trials will allow us to discover is how to do it even better or how to fix the school district that are already failing. They likely won’t cause any more failure than is already happening.


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