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Beautiful Failures

by Lucy Clark

‘I imagine we would all agree on the things education should not be. It should not, surely, make one quarter of all kids drop out and be lost to learning. It should not, surely, make children feel so bad about themselves that they hurt themselves, or shut down, or become lacking in any confidence about themselves.’

What is the meaning of success? What do you do when the system says your child is a failure? Why is it so hard for parents to talk to each other about how badly their kids are doing? They can’t ALL be doing brilliantly, so why aren’t we talking about the kids who struggle to fit the narrow expectations of the education system?

We all talk about how much pressure there is on kids today; we all shake our heads at what seems to be an epidemic of anxiety . . . so why is it so hard to change our expectations?

Moreover, when there are children who want to harm themselves because of stress about school, how can we fail to act?

Beautiful Failures explores, through personal experience and journalistic investigation, the way the education system both fails the kids who struggle and puts enormous, mental-health-threatening pressure on all kids, including those who ‘succeed’. It looks at the way parenting today feeds into this pressure cooker, and how the society we have built makes it hard to be average, or worse.

In a world of ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ – and in an education system that has become about competing for the top spots rather than learning for the joy of it – we urgently need to rethink the meaning of success. For the sake of our children. For the sake of ourselves.


27 June, 2016

About Lucy Clark

Lucy Clark is a journalist and editor with 31 years experience in newspapers and magazines in Sydney, London and New York. She was most recently the editor of the news and opinion website The Hoopla, and has worked as a literary editor, features writer, and opinion columnist. She is now a Senior Editor at Guardian Australia.


  1. Alan Shuttleworth

    A ‘must read’ for parents of high school kids or those about to start high school. Lucy has done a fantastic job of bringing insightful comment and factual research together in a thoroughly enjoyable read. Everybody knows kids that the education system has failed – clearly our education system needs a major re-vamp. Hopefully this book will add further information to the discussion.

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