Fads in education come and go, with many settings being full of optimism, hope, and trying to instil a positive mindset among their pupils. Yet, all these positive, happy signals sometimes fall short of providing individuals the skills to think more critically within the world they engage in. Many people believe that thinking negatively is a bad thing, and do not consider it as a positive force for good.
Expecting things to go wrong can be a great force for good, and with grades and expectations in schools set very high, what happens when things don’t go to plan? People are completely stuffed. If exams scores do not reach expected levels, then deciding on a college, university, or vocational options can throw individuals off-course, but having considered the negative outcome options can provide a backup plan of which they still have some control.
Speaking to the BBC’s Business Daily programme (click here to listen to podcast), Malcolm White from communications agency Krow says there is power in having a more pessimistic outlook (from 8 minutes into the episode). Speaking in terms of business, much of the idea can be replicated into schools, applying to teachers and students alike. Having a ‘pre-mortam’, White suggests, allows you to try and cover all bases, so it’s a process of vigilant watchfulness, worrying constantly — not being depressed or down about it — but being aware of options should things not go to the preferred plan.
To continue to place the idea into an educational context, students need to know that if they underperform on a test or assessment, then they know the steps that can be taken in the future to help improve the outcome. This is a form of resilience, and perhaps the positive, optimistic attitude many schools display work against building such grit.
Quoting Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick, White alludes that a metaphor can be derived from — “I will have no man in my boat,” said Starbuck, “who is not afraid of a whale” — a pretty good lesson for life. Being permanently optimistic can be dangerous, and group-think situations can be a really big issue, as the negative power of positive thinking sometimes is why targets are not met (were the realistic targets set too high in the first place?). Alternatively, if the positive power of negative thinking had been applied, then more realistic targets may have initially been set.
If you’re prepared for the worst, then it makes dealing with the future easier — and you can be optimistic about that.