Flub the SATs? Try it again and again, erasing all but your best scores. There are too many do-overs and not enough acknowledged failure in our culture, argues James Bowman, scholar at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, in The Wall Street Journal.
On her most recent album, the popular chanteuse Joni Mitchell rewrote Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem, “If . . . ,” changing his words,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run . . .
to her own,
If you can fill the journey of a minute
With sixty seconds worth of wonder
Of course, there are no more unforgiving minutes in the wonder and delight of Ms. Mitchell’s imaginary land of endless do-overs — which gives the lie to her subsequent promise: “Then the Earth is yours and everything that’s in it, / But more than that I know you’ll be all right.”
No you won’t. If you fail, sooner or later that failure will have to be recognized, confronted and put to rights. Not to do so in a timely fashion is only to spread the consequences of failure much more widely — to the whole educational system in the case of the SATs and the ordinary taxpayer in the case of the bailouts. Both deserve better.