At one of the day-long training sessions I was working last week, one of our big bosses in his opening talk used a phrase that’s been running around in my warped mind ever since.

He said “We want to take risks in a completely safe environment”.

It reminded me of Lewis Black‘s routine “If it weren’t for my horse, I would have gone to college”, a statement that seems completely divorced from reality.

Is it possible to take risks and be completely safe in doing so? That’s something of an oxymoron since the whole concept of risk involves deliberately moving outside of a safe environment.

The big boss went on to talk about how, in schools, we should be creating an atmosphere in which students can take risks, are able to fail but are still be supported and able to try again.

It’s a great concept but it’s not what we do.

We set up filters to block as much as possible anything from the real world. We fear the possibility that students might communicate with others not within the walls of their school.

And, with the high stakes, must-pass-at-any-cost, standardized testing programs that now extend from early in their school years to beyond graduation, we send the message that failure is not an option.

failure, safety, risk