The fear of failing

“We live in a microwave world,” said Ashley Bass, assistant principal from North Kansas City High School, when discussing the ongoing debate if critical thinking is being appropriately applied in schools.

Some would argue that many students today take short-cuts, and are often aided in reaching goals. However, others more firmly believe that people have always been willing to take short-cuts, and that it is merely a part of human nature.

Bass explained that recent generations often look for a “quick fix” to problems and developing analysis. Her phrase “microwave world” essentially revolved around the idea that the technology in our world has conditioned people to expect instant outcomes.

Reinforcing her idea, one of North Kansas City’s math teachers, Matthew Fillingham, explained that, “the age we live in gives people the instant access of knowledge, [such as] them being able to get answers online.”

Although Fillingham shares similar ideas with Bass on the basis of the impacts of instant technology, he has differing beliefs on aspects of critical thinking.

“I think all people, if they’re not pushed, are going to be naturally lazy and [take] the easy route to get the right answer,” said Fillingham. “I don’t think it matters if it’s a student or an adult. If a student is not trained [to think critically,] then they will naturally not want to take the easy route.”

In addition, Bass explained her observation of the growing “fear of failing” among students. She believes that failure is a key component in succeeding.

“[It’s] what I call failing forwards. In this generation, teens always want the right answers. Sometimes there isn’t a right answer. In this generation they quit,” explained Bass. “It’s not [always] in the book, sometimes the book is waiting for you to write it.”

Thinking critically is not easily taught. Fillingham does his best to apply critical thinking strategies in his own classroom.

The way to teach and demonstrate ways of critical thinking is, “first [model] the process, and then look at a problem,” said Fillingham. “Look at the first part and say ‘hey, where does that lead you?’ and [move] on to the next. [Work] the problem step by step.”

Acquiring critical thinking skills may not be easy, yet failing is an important part of learning.

“I think people have always been afraid to fail, and success has always come from failures, it’s something we have all had to learn. I think we as teachers need to do a better job to let students fail and get them comfortable with it,” said Fillingham.

“Of course we [as teachers] are pressured too with EOC’s [End Of Course exams]. Maybe there’s not enough time allowed for failure experimentation,” continued Fillingham.

“I think the goal of any good teacher is to get students to think for themselves. We’re teaching more than the actual content, it’s important to learn Shakespeare and calculus, but critical thinking is important for whatever you encounter in life,” said Fillingham.