Things I’m Not Supposed To Say: Make It Cheaper To Fail

by Robert Moorehead

Amid debates over the cost of higher education and the struggle to keep the door open to under-represented groups, this post reminds of the need to make failure an easier, less expensive option. In Japan, the costs of failure are high. Students are prepared to march down a narrow path of getting into the right high school and then the right university, followed by getting a job at a major corporation. Veer off that path and you might find yourself shut out completely. Such a system goes beyond discouraging risk-taking to making taking risks nearly fatal. Tressie McMillan Cottom writes “One of the rarely discussed consequences of the high cost of college for some students is that debt can effectively calcify a system whose flexibility is a strength.” Such calcification seem to have hit Japanese institutions decades ago, such that students get rewarded for feeding the process. What does this portend for those of non-Japanese or mixed ancestry? When students and job candidates are measured for their Japanese calcium content and not their unique contributions, how much harder is it for them to gain a foothold in Japanese society?


For-Profit-Private-Schools_jpg_800x1000_q100I came out of the closet on twitter today with an idea I’ve had for some time. Part of being a junior scholar is learning what ideological wars you don’t have the gravitas to wade into. The hyper-focus on degree completion and persistence is one of those. But since the cat is out of the proverbial bag, I will own this one.

Degree completion is a good thing. I will say this and many will still ignore it but I’m just covering my bases here.

Degree completion is a good thing. Persistence is a good thing. Sticktoitiveness is a good thing.

But the real thing is that, for some students, being able to move in and out of college over time is a net positive and a defining benefit of our structure of higher education.

The many entry points of our higher education system is fairly unique among education systems…

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