Grit and pearls of wisdom

April 19, 2012

Your focus on the value of failure is to be welcomed ("Get back in the saddle", 29 March). It may well be salutary to stress that all need not always have prizes. It is surely also true that adversity produces "character". Yet the accounts in your Leader and in Steven Schwartz's piece seem depersonalised and one-dimensional: failure is defined academically in the latter (for the student at the end of the course) and institutionally in the former (business survival or failure). Yet in social relationships, in personal finances, in the challenge of attaining independence, authentic values and a balanced life, students confront failure, near-failure, redeemed failure, bittersweet success and joyful triumph weekly if not daily. Pace Schwartz, the "overwhelming majority of today's graduates" have experienced failure and know all about "true grit".

Finally, did the great John Wayne "fail", or is there some other reason why Jeff Bridges and the Coen brothers got the nod?

Mark Ogden, Durham University

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