For sure, giving up means the end. Sometimes it’s the thing to do, other times not. That’s the hard part—knowing the wisdom of the moment. The desire to persevere and finish a task energizes students who do well and builds into them stamina carrying over into their callings. First, their desire led to making ideas concrete, but then they also learned somewhere, by trial and error, that only deeds lead to completion. The finish line of any task can only be crossed by crossing it, not by anything else.
When a team was too far behind realistically to win, the commendable thing to do was to keep playing hard the full forty minutes. In academics, the scenario is often different. Let’s take a student who gets so far behind in a course that realistically, there is little or no chance of catching up. Other priorities in life are crowding in. Putting intense effort into a course for the student will not guarantee a passing or a useful grade, so at a time like this, withdrawal can be wise.
One thing about grades is that they are based on math, and that means calculations and quantity. In the manufacturing world, that means making shipment, which means enough of a product at the standards set by the industry. One torsion bar for an auto suspension system means one torsion bar. It does not mean that one bar can count as two bars. It is just like it is in basketball; a layup only counts two points, never three. On a construction site, if a hole needs a foot of dirt to fill it, six inches of dirt won’t satisfy the requirement.
Instructors often have a pretty good idea when a student can rally and when a rally is not going to happen. Their job, however, is not to declare impossibility until it is certain, and not to guarantee success for less productivity than what the instructor can in good conscience accept.
An instructor can feel the pain of this more than a student. The instructor likely sees the real picture when the student is still full of hopes based on false premises. This is where no one can reach into another person’s heart and mind and turn things around. It seems like it would be nice, but the most vibrant human could not emerge if such tampering worked; and no one who has seen this personally and grown from it would want to go back and have someone else do more than point the way.