Deferred success

Things were tough when Dave Wilson was a lad. If you failed your exams, you ended up in a menial job with not a lot of prospects. How things have changed.

“If we don’t succeed, we run the risk of failure.” – George W. Bush.

Things were tough when I was a lad. If you Failed your exams, you ended up in a menial job with not a lot of prospects. Only the very bright young things got to go to college in those days, and only the brightest of the bright got to a halfway decent one.

Today, all that’s changed. And now, it seems that any halfwit with a GCSE in gymnastics can pursue his or her vocation in life at one of our newer Universities. Degree courses in such subjects as horse husbandry, talk radio and formation flying abound. How useful they are is anyone’s guess. But one thing’s for sure. Everyone can now become a success in their own chosen field of study, no matter how esoteric.

This new approach to education has had an astonishing effect on our culture. Since the system doesn’t actually Fail anyone anymore, we are all successes in our own right. And we’re all right proud of it.

So you can imagine how pleased I was to hear that a retired primary school teacher in Ipswich has now said that she wants to see the word ‘Fail’ erased from use in education altogether. Considering the fact that no-one does Fail, it  makes a lot of sense.

Liz Beattie, who according to the prestigious ‘East Anglian Daily Times’, has 37 years of teaching experience, said that the reason that she wants the term done away with is that she believes children who are told they have failed can be ‘crushed’ by the experience.

In a bid to cut the use of the word, she will propose that Fail be ‘deleted from the educational vocabulary’ at the annual conference of the Professional Association of Teachers (PAT) tomorrow.

The one flaw in the Beattie argument, however, is that she wants to see the term ‘Failure’ replaced with another term – ‘deferred success’.

Now, that, I feel, would be a mistake. Because the term ‘deferred success’ would obviously be seen for what it is – a euphemism for failure. And the students who received a ‘deferred success’ in their exams would have to be very stupid indeed not to realise that.

So why don’t we just do away with the term altogether and simply create a fairer system where everyone passes an exam and no-one gets tainted by the ugly F word at all.

Now I can see that these wise words might well irk some of our readers in industry. Many of you already believe, don’t you, that academic standards have fallen so low and pass rates dropped so incredibly that only a student with a full-frontal lobotomy could fall through the English academic system without at least a handful of GCSEs.

But think again. What would we rather have? A country of dysfunctional children who believe that they can no longer contribute to our society because they have Failed at school? Or a group of less academically minded folk who are empowered to do better by their own deferred success. (I thought we weren’t going to use that phrase – Ed.).

Dave Wilson

A reader replies:

I hope to god that your editorial is ironic.

We humans are defined by our successes and failures, to be judged as a success someone else must fail. Rigging the system so that liberal ideologies are carried through in the face of common sense fails everybody.

When adversity meets us head on (as it will) will we be “crushed by failure” or will we pick ourselves off the deck and carry on fighting in whatever metaphorical or literal context you wish to apply.

Instead of surrendering to our pathetic exam system with yet more liberal ideology (the ideology of failure) how about raising standards instead?

Andy Moth