I engage frequently in conversations such as the one below. These interactions take place online and face-to-face.
Well-intentioned educator: We need to teach children to make mistakes.
Me: Really? We need to teach mistake making?
Educator: Well, we need to teach them to embrace failure.
Me: There is nothing virtuous about failure. You cannot possibly motivate children with the same force you use to punish them. Besides, Papert teaches us that the best projects push up against the persistence of reality. Overcoming obstacles is natural. Failure is the imposition of judgment by others.
Educator: What I mean is that kids should be risk-takers.
Me: It doesn’t seem like a good idea for adults to be encouraging children to take risks. Learning has nothing to do with risk. Risk is potentially dangerous.
Educator: We should encourage tinkering and experimentation.
Me: Why didn’t you say that?
Veteran educator Gary Stager, Ph.D. is co-author of Invent To Learn — Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom, publisher at Constructing Modern Knowledge Press, and the founder of the Constructing Modern Knowledge summer institute. He led professional development in the world’s first 1:1 laptop schools thirty years ago and designed one of the oldest online graduate school programs. Gary is also the curator of The Seymour Papert archives at DailyPapert.com. Learn more about Gary here.