Monday, September 29, 2008

The Culture of No Fail Failure

This bailout thing has me pissed off…royally. How has the greatest nation on earth….the nation that can do anything….the nation that was forged when a group of so called rabble-rousers stood up to the King of England…the nation that mobilized one of the greatest fighting forces in history and defeated Hitler….the nation that walked on the Moon….the nation with grit, determination, and know how….how have we sunk to the point where we no longer allow failure?

Little Johnny has missed 90 days of school, but since “the test” will catch him next year he moves on ahead to fifth grade unprepared. I mean we wouldn’t want his little psyche hurt, would we?

Little Susie gets a trophy for cheering because…..well, she showed up to one of the three practices each week and well….all the kids should get a trophy so everything is fair.

The end of the school year finds me scrambling for award titles I can give certain students…..the students who don’t deserve one…..the students who have to receive an award because the administrator sends out a directive that “all students must receive an award” mainly so said administrator doesn’t have to deal with the student’s mom or dad (more than likely the reason behind why the kid doesn’t deserve one in the first place). These are the students who scream at me, the students who threaten me, the students who never complete an assignment, the student who I find on a daily basis hanging by one arm from the boy’s restroom ceiling, the student who bullies other students…..yeah, them. They get awards too, because….well, we need to be fair, remember?

What we are doing with this type of mentality is creating a culture where no one takes responsibility, the work ethic is basically left for dead along the highway, and then we all have the audacity to stand around, wring our hands and wonder why in the hell education in the United States isn’t improving.

In our (yes, I participate, but only because I’d lose my job if I didn’t) culture of never failing we are actually doing the opposite….we are failing, and we are doing a magnificent job of it.

So much so it has infiltrated the halls of higher education where students are ill-prepared, but walk about with an air of entitlement. Our no failure culture has crept into the business world because that’s were those entitled college and non-college students eventually end up.

….and now, our no fail culture has reached the hallowed halls of the US Capital. The banking firms that are being bailed out have known for months…several months things were going south. I mean, come on, you’re making money providing mortgages to folks with no….absolutely no qualifications. Why? Well, the non-working, non-asset holding public deserves a nice home in the suburbs. It’s a nice thing to do.

No job or a job barely making $25,000, barely a car, no savings, and bingo! You’ve hit the jackpot. You’re sitting pretty in a nice suburban home with three bedrooms, a front lawn, and a real driveway. Soon your neighbors get upset with you because your grass needs cutting, and they aren’t too happy about the cars lined up along the street because the driveway is for the grill and the parties, right? And suddenly those mortgage payments become due and as the months go by the payments begin to increase because you didn’t read the whole document. The cry goes out, “There ought to be a law….how dare those mean mortgage companies make people sign mortage deals they can’t handle?!?”

Then as the foreclosure signs go up and home after home on your street is abandoned and left derelect there comes the cry, “These people can’t help it. Something should be done to help them keep their home.” They have no responsibility for taking on a debt they couldn’t handle. Why? Well, why should they? I mean what’s government for….it’s there to help people, isn’t it? The government should make sure those people keep their homes.

….and now….

The banks can’t get rid of their foreclosed properties fast enough, the money that was supposed to come in from all of those fantastic sub-prime deals didn’t materialize (why would they think it would?), they’ve borrowed money from other financial institutions to stay afloat creating a house of cards that flew to the floor last week. Once again the cry rings out, “Oh my gosh….we can’t let them fail! Something must be done…..they must not have any responsibility in this. Why? Well, why should they?”

John Q. Public is ready and waiting to foot the bill. We pay taxes and don’t even realize we’re doing it since the government makes it easy on us by taking it from us before we actually get our paycheck and don't forget all of those little embedded taxes.

Funny though….if you really take a minute to notice…..the politicians are busy pointing to the folks on the other side as the culprits in the mess, but the only people taking the responsibility is the tax payer.

Until we understand as a nation that government is not there to wipe our rear ends, hand us a bottle, and burp us….until we understand as a nation that each of us holds the responsibility for our own version of the American dream….until we understand that as parents we, not the state, are responsible for our children’s education….until we understand that owning a home is not a right... it’s something we do when we can afford it… then this mess will continue.

Responsibility…..silly, silly word!


Unknown said...

You are so right! All this talk about the economy and stuff is really bogging me down.

John Witter said...


Anonymous said...

Well said! When I first started work in the medical field over a decade ago, I was amazed at how many people tried to defy the laws of physics and got into terrible car crashes, but we live in a culture that says the rules are always malleable and there are no absolutes. As a culture, we might just need to run into a tree or two . . . I just pray whatever happens will lead to a revival of personal responsibility.

EHT said...

Ethan, I know. It's a bummer.

Thanks John!

Hi AMO...earlier tonight I heard someone talking about how businesses won't be able to get the credit they need to make payroll. my way of thinking if you have to get a loan to make payroll you need to be rethinking your business plan cause something isn't right.

Unknown said...

How about we all move to some quiet, unsuspecting country with no problems to speak of? How about New Zealand?

peacay said...

----How about New Zealand?----

You mean a country where its citizens realise that a government has an important role to play in society -- and is not the enemy -- and has got regulatory oversight in place already? Bloody socialists!

----How has the greatest nation on earth...blahblah...sunk..----

Perhaps by forgetting that humility also matters? Stop with the greatest nation** rubbish and note this time as the beginning of the future in the real world, you know, the playground where all the not-Americans gather together and live within their means, or at least try to.

Besides, as bad as the present medicine is, if there isn't a bailout then it's depression, not recession that results.

It's not really about the culture of not allowing failure, it's just that the culture of pure unharnessed greed has led to a point where the whole economy relies on greed's logical extension - wall street - as a structural support. You either bandaid up the creaking foundations or the whole thing comes tumbling down.

So, it's not about business failure, it's about greed. You can't reverse that culture overnight. You can only put in place some regulations to prevent similar occurrences in the future.

Still, it's rather amusing that the ideologues of the right and the left can both agree that the bill wasn't worth passing (I don't believe I've ever seen that before). The repubs don't want the govt. to get involved on principle and the dems want better assistance for Mr&Mrs middle class.

**Don't get me wrong, I don't hate America at all. The contrary is true in fact. But if you ever wonder why the rest of the world shares a net dislike for America so to speak (and certainly in effect these last 8 years), then the fist pumpin' hyperzealous nationalistic pride - WE ARE THE BEST HOOAAAH!! - might be one of the first common responses in a survey. I'm just sayin'..

EHT said...

Peacay, you do make some very valid points, and I appreciate them. However, as I said before it's up to each American to achieve their version of the American is not up to the government to hand it to them or create policies to make it easier for one group over another. This is how the banking industry got to where it is today.

I wholeheartedly agree with you concerning people living above their means and greed on the part of business and citizens.

....a little exercise in delayed gratification wouldn't hurt any of us. :)

Georgia Road Geek said...

I can't wait to see when some of these kids get into college and find out that they got to actually do something to *earn* their diplomas.

It's truly a sad state of affairs. :(

Anonymous said...

While I agree with you that a bailout sends many of the wrong signals, and that people in this country are too often rewarded for irresponsibility, I don't agree with a "tough love" approach to the entire country.

Like many, many people, my wife and I paid off our mortgages on time and lived within our means. We don't relish the idea of going down with a ship steered by reckless Wall Street hucksters. (By the way, I think your comment does not say enough about mendacious bankers, greedy speculators and do-nothing regulators.)

The problem is that we're all in this together, and it's hard to mete out justice in a way that doesn't seriously hurt innocent bystanders.

As for the dangers of rewarding bad behavior and irresponsibility in school, I'm with you there. Perhaps schools can turn this fiasco into a teachable moment.

Teacha said...

Amen & Amen!!!

Believe it or not your post on the culture of failure has now helped me understand how and why my district interprets NCLB the way it does . . .our own government is teaching our students that they won't ever fail--even though it is HOW we learn, improve and succeed. So, giving students the zero they deserve for doing NOTHING is not fair. . . they deserve a 50 b/c failure is something we don't believe in anymore . . .