Failure is Not an Option is the title of Gene Kranz’s autobiography. The phrase expresses how Kranz, a NASA flight director, and his team approached problems of all kinds—most notably, how to get the Apollo 13 astronauts home safely after a disastrous explosion in the service module. When I was fresh out of school and working my first job, I had a coffee cup with this slogan. The idea is common in American culture: in the workplace, in relationships, in schools.
For the Apollo mission, a no-failure mindset was exactly what the team needed to find a solution, and fast. But framing success as the only option is a problem in schools, especially in the elementary classroom—and especially if classroom instruction is focused on getting the one right answer.