The Importance of Failure

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.  — Sir Winston “Bud” Churchill.

America is creating a generation of eternal children. Children who are unable to deal with the real world.  Children who at 35 are happily living in their parents’ basement.  Speaking as an authentic old person (over forty, Generation X), what the Hell is wrong with the Baby Boomers and the Millenials?  Why on Earth would one ever — ever — let their children move back in after college?

This is what happens when parents
let Precious Q. Snowflake back in the
house after college graduation.

Short of some tragedy involving early onset dementia, cancer, a freak chemistry lab accident, etc., which has rendered your spawn unable to physically care for himself, nothing good is going to come from your enabling behavior. Not for you.  Not for your precious snowflake Peter Pans. Not for America.

‘Puter has already told his children that once they graduate high school at age 18 (no 5 years in high school and then 6 in undergraduate college for them, not on ‘Puter’s dime), they have exactly four choices, other than moving out and getting a job immediately: state school, scholarship, Marine Corps, priesthood.  That’s it.  Anything else is unacceptable.

‘Puter’s got a theory about the Millenials.  Millenials have been ruined by the most self-centered, pampered, narcissistic, egotistical generation in American history: the Baby Boomers.

Boomers were raised by the children of the Great Depression, the Greatest Generation.  These are the men and women who lived in Great Depression poverty, defeated Tojo and the Nazis with little help from the Limeys and the Russkies and built American superiority.  The Greatest Generation kept quiet, didn’t whine and just got on with it.

The Greatest Generation had perhaps the shittiest hand dealt them of any generation in American history, yet they didn’t whine and grouse.  They had sons, husbands and fathers slaughtered by the 100,000s and got on with it. They lost everything in the Great Depression and got on with it. As Winston Churchill said, “If you are going to go through Hell, keep going.” And keep going the Greatest Generation did.

History bears testament to the wonderful job the Greatest Generation did, right up until the time they started bearing children.  In what was likely an overreaction to their shitty lives, the Greatest Generation doted on their children, never telling them no.  Sure, the Greatest Generation did this for all the right reasons.  No one in his right mind would ever want his children to go to war or suffer through an economic depression. But the Greatest folks went far beyond this, overlooking unacceptable behavior, tolerating what they knew to be flawed world views (hippiedom, communism, etc.), all to protect their precious snowflakes.  Well, actions (and inactions) have consequences.

The Boomers grew up to be ginormous asshats.  Boomers are in process of, locust-like, destroying America like no generation before. ‘Puter’s not talking about their self-absorption and reality-denying sense of entitlement. ‘Puter’s talking about Boomers rearing their children.  Boomers took their parents’ “Precious Snowflake” parenting style, which was bad enough already, and geometrically progressed it.  To Boomers, it is no longer sufficient to give one’s child everything he wants, or to excuse away your child’s inappropriate behavior.  Boomers are Hell-bent on removing concepts of “personal responsibility” and “consequences” from America’s value system.  Boomers turned traditional parenting into something unrecognizable. In so doing, they are creating a generation of individuals who are unrecognizable as adults.

As you know, Mrs. ‘Puter is a high school teacher.  She is on the front lines with Millenials every day.  The stories she can tell would make a sane person weep for America’s future.  ‘Puter’s fairly certain Mrs. the Czar has similar tales, which, should they ever meet, Mrs. ‘Puter and Mrs. the Czar would share like grizzled veterans at the VFW’s bar.

Parents not only excuse their children’s unacceptable behavior, they are willing to go to the mats with the schools to achieve an outcome for their child that there child has not earned and does not merit.  Conversations usually go something like this:

My Precious Q. Snowflake cannot fail! After all, it would reflect poorly on me, the all-perfect Boomer! And, too, Precious means well.  What have you, the school, done to him?!? How dare you have standards and enforce them?!? We are suing you! Stupid teacher! Stupid principal! Those who can’t do, teach, you know.

Don’t believe ‘Puter? Here are a few choice examples.  All hypothetical of course.  Nothing like this could ever have happened in ‘Puter’s school district.  All our kids are perfect, just like Precious Q. Snowflake.  Nope.  Hypotheticals. Purely hypothetical.

Example 1.  Billy and his friends decided they were going to get some alcohol, get lit up and hang out with their friends.  So far, sounds like pretty much every weekend in ‘Puter’s high school career.  Nothing menacing so far.

Billy and his crew, however, decided to forego the beer and go straight to the vodka.  Better, they decided to bring the vodka to a home football game, on school property, where a zero tolerance policy is in effect.  Even better, Billy ends up getting so blitzed in the stands, he projectile vomits all over the row of kids in front of him (at the top of the stands, of course, so his hot expulsion can seep inexorably downhill).  Even most better, after the school folks examine Billy, they realize he needs an ambulance as he is unable to walk under his own power out of the stands.

‘Puter watched this occur, and as the EMTs hauled Billy out of the stands, strapped down, head lolling, eyes unfocused (Billy, not ‘Puter), ‘Puter had the following thoughts.  First, ‘Puter thought that in his entire life he had only been that intoxicated once, and had only seen a handful of people ever that intoxicated, which is quite an achievement based on ‘Puter’s Irish Catholic schooling.  Second, ‘Puter thought he’d hate to be Billy’s parents, as this was certainly going to be embarrassing for them.  Third, ‘Puter thought that certainly Billy would be suspended indefinitely, as would Billy’s posse, who were also caught.  Billy recovered, thank God, no worse for wear aside from a wicked, three day hangover (‘Puter knows Billy’s neighbors) and the lingering taste of an activated charcoal slurry.

Well, Billy did get suspended.  For two weeks.  Weak.  Worse, Billy’s parents unrepentantly appealed the suspension.  The school board caved, cutting the legs out from under the building principal, effectively emasculating him.  Billy was out of school for just three days, the length of his hangover.

Example 2. High school kids go on a school sponsored trip to Italy.  School policy is no alcohol, ever, on school sponsored trips, regardless of permitted drinking ages.  Kids get bombed.  School district suspends the kids for the requisite two weeks (see, e.g., Billy).

This time, the parents forego the usual “bitch at the school board until they cave and give you what you want” route.  The parents lawyered up.  The school board instantly caved, not only rescinding the suspension, but permitting the kids to go on their Senior Trip to Boston the next weekend.

Example 3.  Ray joins National Honor Society.  Ray’s teachers suspect that Ray’s not that bright, and has cheated his way through his academic career.  Ray’s teachers have not caught him cheating to date, so there (rightly) is no reason to object to Ray’s membership in NHS.

As predictable as ‘Puter waking up surrounded by strange women, covered in Crisco and sand fleas and floating on a makeshift raft in the middle of Lake Erie on the morning after Dyngus Day, Ray’s math teacher actually catches Ray cheating, with incontrovertible evidence of Ray’s acts.

Ray’s teacher informs the NHS advisor, who informs the NHS Advisory Council.  The NHS Advisory Counsel rules Ray has violated the standards of NHS through cheating, and as such should be expelled from NHS.  Expelled not from school, mind you, but from a voluntary extracurricular organization created to honor ethical behavior and academic achievement.  So far, so good.

Ray (Ray’s parents, really) appeal to the school principal.  Ray’s parents (and Ray) whine and bitch and moan about how Ray’s cheating will ruin his chances of getting into his college of choice.  Poor Ray!  Why, what was there for Ray to do but to cheat?  Ray never could’ve achieved his success on his own! It’s unfair to penalize Ray for being resourceful!  HOW DARE YOU, SIR! HAVE YOU NO SHAME?!?!111.  Not once, not at any step in this sordid tale, do Ray or his parents ever deny that Ray cheated.  Not once.

You guessed it. Building principal overrules the NHS Advisory Council, reinstating Ray, contingent on Ray getting teachers to sign off on a sheet next year attesting to Ray’s awesome-osity as a human being.    Ray and his parents get their way.  Ray skates, despite Ray being caught red-handed.

But wait, Ray’s story gets even better.  You know that college ‘Puter mentioned?  Ray’s dream college? Guess what college it is. Go on.  Guess.  Nope.  Not even close.  Ray believes that his academic achievement and impeccable character merit an appointment to the United States Military Academy.  Yup.  Ray, the kid who cheated his way through school and bullied school officials to escape the consequences of his actions may end up leading ‘Puter’s kids into battle someday.  Awesome.  Just awesome. If ‘Puter’s kids end up serving under Ray, ‘Puter’s going to tell his kids to frag Ray before they even get off the landing craft.

Each of ‘Puter’s examples above (and ‘Puter’s got a bunch more where those came from) show parents aggressively preventing their Precious Q. Snowflakes from the very real consequences of their very stupid mistakes.  In each instance, a child failed.  In each instance, the school district prevented the child from suffering the consequences of his acts.

And now we’re back to ‘Puter’s central thesis.  Failure is important.  Kids need to fail, and to suffer the consequences of failure when they’re young, when parents and teachers can monitor and manage the failure.  Failure is critical to formation of functional adults.  It is in our responses to failure that character is revealed and developed.  If we do not learn how to fail, then to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and keep moving forward (see, e.g., the Greatest Generation) as children, we will not be able to do so adults.

As noted above, the Greatest Generation, then the Baby Boomers, have engaged on a two-generation Cultural Revolution dedicated to destroying America’s bourgeoise values, removing any notion of consequences flowing naturally from one’s actions. Personal responsibility is a quaint notion, much the same as a rotary phone.  Sure, the Boomers and Millenials have heard of personal responsibility, but, like the rotary phone, personal responsibility’s a concept that lost its utility long ago.

And so today, as our first American Generation of Precious Q. Snowflakes enters the real world never having faced failure, we find them unable to function when faced with hardship of any sort.  When these hothouse flowers are confronted by their failures, whether by their bosses or other well-adjusted adults, they don’t know how to react.  So, our Millienials run home, hide out in Mom and Dad’s basement, and wait for the mean old world to magically go away.

No one wants to hire a Fill In The Blank Studies Major?  It’s someone else’s fault.  I’m special.  Just look at all these awards and trophies I got!  I’ll get Mom and Dad to call the HR Department and fix it, just like they did for me in high school and college.  Meanwhile, I’ll move back in until I find a job that fits my unique precious snowflake skill set of critical race theory based critiques of post colonial environmental and wymyn’s rights policies in sub-Saharan Africa.  Something’s just bound to turn up.  After all, I got straight As.

My mechanical engineering major girlfriend who graduated with a job who dumped me because she doesn’t want to hang out with me and my funemployed bros while we play XBox and while away the hours until our next funemployment check shows up?  She’s a bitch. She doesn’t get me like Mom and Dad do.  There are plenty of other women out there who will love me for who I am, a 36 year old guy living in my parent’s basement, eating their food and having Mom do my laundry.

The car that Mom and Dad bought me broke down because I failed to check the fluids, ever, and the engine seized?  Not my fault.  How could anyone know that little red light meant something was wrong?  Stupid Mercedes Benz should’ve made the light bigger, or totally MMS the dealership to come get the car, fix it and return it to the driveway before I even know it’s gone.  Mom and Dad will get me a new car.  I didn’t like the color anyway.  Problem solved.

I don’t have health insurance because I’m unwilling to work, or unemployable because of my so-called “education,” funded by the taxpayer?  Don’t worry.  Obama says I can stay on Mom and Dad’s policy until I’m 26, because I’m just a kid.

America has raised a generation of quitters.  A generation singularly unable to function as adults.  A generation where no one is responsible for any negative consequences that befall them.  A generation where Mommy and Daddy are still picking up after their adult children well into their 30s.

This is not an America poised for recovery from its current circumstances, or positioned to succeed in the future.  Foreign countries eat our lunch because they let their children fail.

Can’t or won’t cut it in Chinese schools? Fine. You’re done.  Grab a shovel and get cracking on that Three Rivers Gorge Dam.  There’s 100 million kids behind you who’d love to have your seat.

Didn’t make the cut on the entrance exam for the India Institute of Technology?  There might be a job in a call center across town, working 10:00 PM to 10:00 AM seven days a week. We’ve only got money to educate our best and brightest.

America will succeed in the future if, and only if, we learn to embrace failure again.

About 'Puter

Always right, unless he isn’t, the infallible Ghettoputer F. X. Gormogons claims to be an in-law of the Volgi, although no one really believes this. ’Puter carefully follows economic and financial trends, legal affairs, and serves as the Gormogons’ financial and legal advisor. He successfully defended us against a lawsuit from a liquor distributor worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid deliveries of bootleg shandies. The Geep has an IQ so high it is untestable and attempts to measure it have resulted in dangerously unstable results as well as injuries to researchers. Coincidentally, he publishes intelligence tests as a side gig. His sarcasm is so highly developed it borders on the psychic, and he is often able to insult a person even before meeting them. ’Puter enjoys hunting small game with 000 slugs and punt guns, correcting homilies in real time at Mass, and undermining unions. ’Puter likes to wear a hockey mask and carry an axe into public campgrounds, where he bursts into people’s tents and screams. As you might expect, he has been shot several times but remains completely undeterred. He assures us that his obsessive fawning over news stories involving women teachers sleeping with young students is not Freudian in any way, although he admits something similar once happened to him. Uniquely, ’Puter is unable to speak, read, or write Russian, but he is able to sing it fluently. Geep joined the order in the mid-1980s. He arrived at the Castle door with dozens of steamer trunks and an inarticulate hissing creature of astonishingly low intelligence he calls “Sleestak.” Ghettoputer appears to make his wishes known to Sleestak, although no one is sure whether this is the result of complex sign language, expert body posture reading, or simply beating Sleestak with a rubber mallet. 'Puter suggests the Czar suck it.