Karl Lauterbach retreats as quarantine rules for people infected with Corona are lifted, and Frank-Walter Steinmeier admits mistakes in his policy towards Russia: Recently, we have seen more and more politicians admit mistakes. We all make mistakes, but many of us find it hard to admit mistakes, big or small. Why is it so hard for us to jump over our shadow and say: Sorry, that was my fault?
Bettina Blanc: No one is congratulated if they say, “I made a mistake.” Nobody says, “It’s so cool and awesome to see that – that’s the only way you can move forward and think about what you’ll do differently next time.” It’s like standing there and feeling shy – which probably has something to do with the learning culture at school. You feel like you are losing face and that you are not settled.
Karl Popper, the rationalist and critical philosopher, once said that he would only like to elect politicians who, looking back at the last legislative period, would say decisively: “I made a mistake here.” But he says that is not the case. There is always this behavior: you know what’s right and you might say there is no alternative. This gives the impression that dealing with failure is a weakness rather than a strength or competence – perhaps even up front. This would be my approach: account for failure from the start, because most of the decisions we make are of a far-reaching nature, and we have to make them – with knowledge and not knowing. If we keep reminding ourselves of not knowing and thinking about not succeeding, we may act with a lot more caution and responsibility than when we convince ourselves: “Well, there is no alternative to what I plan.”
You just mentioned school. There is a phrase “learn from mistakes”. Do you currently not play any role in our education system?
Plank: This is, I say, a divided story. I keep doing workshops with children and teachers and it can be seen that the word ‘mistakes’ has very negative connotations for most children – as opposed to saying ‘mistakes make you wise’. I have a little storyboard where the mole was buried and came out in the wrong place. At this point I always stop and ask the children to think about how he feels. Embarrassed, said a boy, “I buried myself. I wish no one would see me.” Or he’s sad and doesn’t know what to do next. This shows how negative this is for children. It’s a big step to realize that something beautiful can come from this mistake. Then the story continues: the mole does not discourage him. He continues digging and runs his mound. And in the place where the vacancy is now, something beautiful can be created – for example a balcony to look at or a small diving board from which you can jump into the lake. This leads not only to the pupils, but often also to the accompanying teachers, who look at things completely differently. This word “error” is also great in German because if you switch letters, you get the word “helper”.
The personalities are very different: some always look for fault in themselves first, even if they are not to blame, and others always look for fault in others first, even if they should not blame themselves. What does that say about people?
Plank: It has a lot to do with self-esteem. If I keep finding out that it’s always my fault when something goes wrong, and if others tell me I’m always responsible for things, I accept that—especially in the learning process. Or I sympathize strongly with characters who appear in such a way that not acknowledging something is a strength. We don’t see anyone say in the course of the discussion, “Oh, I see it quite differently now. You’ve convinced me of your arguments. I’ll take that stand from now on.” Can you imagine someone like that would look good on a talk show? No, you can say: “Someone has fallen and is overturning his flag with the wind.” We don’t have a culture where we deal with failure, are open to learning from it and act more cautiously in learning about failure. We are intertwined in a way that you should be spot on. And now discussing improvement and self-improvement: there is no room for failure and mistakes.
How can we improve this? What can we exclude from this discussion and perhaps start on a small scale to create a better culture of error?
Plank: First of all, you have to think: when is something really wrong? In my view – and this is also common in the literature – there is no error unless you can do it right and have the intention of doing it right. Learning means you can’t do that yet. Therefore, it is completely illogical that someone cannot do something to say that it is wrong.
In the literature there is passive epistemology, which posits that in schools and classrooms one must distinguish between stages of performance, where one can do things right and where one can talk about mistakes, and stages of learning, where it makes no sense. that. I would be careful when I ever use the word ‘wrong’, because then I become sensitive to the fact that in many cases it is not actually a fault, but a fault, a failure, or a failure due to ignorance. If it becomes apparent how often something doesn’t work because we don’t know things, we’ll become more sensitive to the number of decisions we actually have to make without thinking about it until the end. I think we will be better watching the alternatives to be considered and we will be more cautious in general. It also means that we can better anticipate and deal with failure.
led the interview Jan Wiedemann.