This article is inspired by our friends at Acton Academy, a high-functioning, fast-growing microschool that shares much of our vision.

There is much to be learned from failure. It can sting, but it also teaches valuable lessons, not just about whatever goal we’re attempting, but about ourselves, our abilities, and our limitations.

The notion that success is paramount is misguided. Young people who have their successes orchestrated for them miss out on real growth experiences and their development is stunted. On top of that, fear of failure prevents many people from even attempting worthwhile goals.

The goal is not to produce young people who are “successful.” Our objective is to inspire people who try; whether they succeed or fail is entirely subjective and largely irrelevant. In our philosophy, children should learn to take their knocks, get back up, and try again, doing their absolute best along the way. Curiosity and determination are celebrated above success. The journey is infinitely more important than the destination.

In the traditional school model, benchmarks are set by some invisible authority, and students are pitted against arbitrary standards. Not only does this undermine the notion that different people have different strengths (see Cultivating multiple intelligences) that benefit them and society in very different ways, it also creates an artificial environment of competition and a myopic view of a real world that is much broader, deeper, and more inclusive than a school curriculum.

Rather than grading students on a threshold (an artificial construct in and of itself), we constantly ask “is that the best you can do?” Battle scars are every bit as important as medals.