Last September, I posted an essay by VCS student Lucia Hinojosa examining the encroachment of modernization and mass-produced commodities into Chiapas, Mexico, where traditional values have survived and life is lived much as it has been for centuries. Today’s post features a new short essay by Lucia that she created as her entry into a scholarship competition sponsored by Templeton Press.
The competition is based on the book New Threats to Freedom, edited by Adam Bellow. The book features essays by over two dozen contributors, each of whom presents an argument about some element of contemporary culture that threatens to erode one or more of the freedoms we take for granted.
Participants in the competition were asked to select one of three short videos, each of which deals with one of the problems discussed in the book, and then prepare a short written or video response. Lucia chose a video by political columnist Michael Goodwin about the erosion of the idea of failure in contemporary society. You can watch the video on You Tube at this link; here is Lucia’s response:
New Threats to Freedom
Michael Goodwin on the Freedom to Fail
The freedom to fail is the assertion of the importance of failure. This freedom should be granted to every individual in order to enhance critical thinking, but most importantly because this freedom also grants the right of true success. The possibility of real failure ought to create an incentive for success, success being when people strive for and obtain coherent rewards to their accomplishments.
In the American system failure isn’t considered defeat. Failure has been hidden in the midst of a structure that is ready to bail out the underachievers. It happens within the economy, with things such as loans and mortgages. It happens with education, where students are granted degrees without mastering the material and having a place in the professional realm.
Failure and success are interdependent. However, if failure becomes invisible, success is also an illusion. This problem is only a piece of a larger threat, full of complexity. Alexis de Tocqueville, a true visionary, envisions how men living in democratic centuries are threatened by barbarism. In his book, Democracy in America, Tocqueville clearly states how equality is inevitable, but it depends upon modern societies “whether equality is to lead to servitude or freedom, knowledge or barbarism, prosperity or wretchedness”. Through equality we’ve reached positive outcomes, however, we must learn to manage it, or it will become barbaric, in which case discrepancies are absent, therefore nobody stands out because “success” is granted to anyone.
Tocqueville discusses the future of education in America, among many other elements of society, and how it is threatened by the idea of equality. Equality brings failure and success closer together, as well as other components of society that once were opposite and interdependent. The result is a confused society, where results are apparently similar, due to a lack of possibilities.
American society is immersed in the illusion that failure is nonexistent, as though success is a given. Institutions and corporations have managed to mould individuals, their goal being economic enhancement. Social promotion and institutions pamper individuals, and within this protection they can’t be exposed to failure. As a counter reaction, true success is also hidden.
Educational institutions should prioritize scholastic instruction, not monetary enrichment, and they should be the judges that decide which individuals are capable of earning a degree and functioning within the working world. Tuition shouldn’t be the key element in obtaining a diploma.
If educational institutions are showing signs of behaving like corporations, who will educate future generations? We should be aware of the crucial importance of true education. Critical thinking is the only means to create argument, to move forward. Young generations face a complex world in both private and public realms. It’s a time of individual responsibility, in which understanding these mechanisms, and finding a way to rise above despite them, is essential.