Would You Like an Prosthetic Arm? An Illustration.

Suppose I offer you a biomechanical arm (that is worse than your natural arm) to replace your perfectly good arm. Would you refuse? Likely. Suppose now that you have a shark attack, accident, etc. and you lose your arm. Now the offer sounds very good. This is obvious.

But why is this the case? The offer has not changed. What has changed is what you bring to the table, your starting point, where you are relative to the proposal. This effect, what I’m going to call “starting point effect” for the purposes of this post, seems to be true.

But it can also be — and seems to have been — abused.

Education via Failure

As a UC Berkeley student, I’ve observed that tests here are made purposely hard and impassable. Therefore everyone fails. Then the curve is offered to us and we embrace it willingly as our savior. But I recognize the wool they are trying to pull over our eyes. They try to make us feel like failures so that we accept, even embrace, the bell curve, which inherently states that half must fail. At the same time, the university also supports that doctrine of the avoidance of failure, that a bad grade will hurt your chances for jobs and medical/grad school; yet it continues to teach by failing and bell-curving. Can such a twisted, inconsistent system exist? Ask UC Berkeley.


I’m not disputing the concept of “nothing fails like success,” that one can learn even more from failure than from success and that some failure is good. What I mean is making one feel like a failure constantly, nothing but a failure, propagating the notion that it is impossible to succeed.