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Oct11

Frustration and Failure as Instruments of Education

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Various scientific studies, such as those by Walter Mischel, Martin Seligman, and Angela Duckworth, among others, confirm that cognitive ability, measured by IQ, is not a reliable indicator of success and achievements that help us to have a happier life or greater academic and social success. Things like a professional career, stable family life, not developing harmful addictions, avoiding violent episodes, a criminal history, etc. Good cognitive ability helps, of course, but the reality is that it does not explain why some children succeed while others do not. However, these studies do point to another, more reliable indicator: good character. Qualities like gratitude, curiosity, optimism, self-control, consistency, and above all, grit, which is the sustained commitment and dedication to a task in order to achieve an objective.

And the obvious question is, how can you develop that grit?  Well, it seems that the key factor is failure, or more specifically, learning to fail, dealing with the frustration, and trying again. In order to achieve this, it is inevitable to face challenges that expose you to a certain possibility of failure. Paul Tough explains it very well in his book, “How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character.”

There is a growing concern in our society between parents and institutions, that we are educating our children with ”kid gloves” and not exposing them to any type of risk, including failure. At Smartick, this is something we know all well. Some parents write to us or call telling us that their children can’t stand being wrong, that they cry when the session bar turns red because they are not answering fast or well enough, and sometimes it is a reason that they leave the method. However, we know that mistakes and learning to deal with frustration are essential, not only for learning math but developing character. And from Smartick, we are putting in our effort to make that happen.

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