Patrick Strudwick: Time to teach pupils how to fail better

Since WWII no other generation has had as little chance of finding success
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The Independent Online

If I were marking their efforts, Wimbledon High School would have earned an "A minus" this week. The south London independent school is having what they are calling a "Failure Week" to teach pupils how to learn from life's defeats. How prescient. There is nothing today's teenagers will need more than this. Since the Second World War no other generation has had as little chance of finding success.

But if the school were to offer other similar themed weeks then I would mark them up to an A* with a big smiley face in the margin. Here then is my alternative national curriculum for Generation Y Me?

The joy of loneliness. By 2031 almost a fifth of British households will be in single occupancy. But that need not mean talking to the wall like Shirley Valentine. Here, kids, is how to start a Skype supper club: invite your (single) friends to eat dinner at the same time, all on the webcam, so you need never resort to hoovering up Hula Hoops in a maniacal bid to blot out the solitude. Also, try Tweeting yourself. And update your Facebook status with increasingly attention-seeking lines: "Catherine has been kidnapped by communists." "Simon is screaming incessantly into the silence." "Javier is having a heart atta..."

Enjoying ugliness. No one with £80,000 in student fees will be able to afford cosmetic surgery. Or hair tongs. Or anal bleaching. So, natural beauty lessons are the future. "Class, learn from the following quotes: 'Ugliness is in a way superior to beauty because it lasts,' said Serge Gainsbourg. 'The secret of ugliness consists not in irregularity, but in being uninteresting,' wrote the essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson. And this crucial note from Oscar Wilde: 'The ugly and the stupid have the best of it in this world. They can sit at their ease and gape at the play. If they know nothing of victory, they are at least spared the knowledge of defeat.'"

Delighting in a McJob. With university applications already down 9 per cent and youth unemployment at 22 per cent few can expect to find intellectual nourishment at work. Urgent lessons are needed in the following: how to detach oneself from mundane reality, how to meditate through existential rage and how to surreptitiously read Proust behind the checkout.

The rewards of renting. As mortgage companies now expect 20 per cent deposits, many of tomorrow's adults will never own a property. It could be fun, however, if only they were taught how to build an extension using tents, how to nail pictures into the wall without forfeiting the deposit, and how to do a moonlight flit when the magnolia becomes too much.

And if a pupil should misbehave during these classes? I suggest they copy out this line from As You Like It a hundred times: "Sweet are the uses of adversity". It will serve them well.