Main Question: Does U.S. culture fail to acknowledge the positives of risking error?

The article that sparked the topic: The Importance of Making Mistakes
Neither our educational system nor our culture values mistakes. Take politics. Apparently politicians of acceptable “character” are born, not made. For a politician to admit that, as a youth, s/he [experimented with drugs] [protested a war] [tried same-gender sex] [you name it] is career suicide. Unless, of course, that person found God and was cleansed of all youthful indiscretions.

In our society, we tend to view mistakes as indicative of weakness rather than the invaluable, irreplaceable learning tool that they are. We discount what it means to be willing to make mistakes — to take a risk, have the courage to try something that might not work and the integrity to accept the consequences. And we ignore that the best measure of character is the ability to accept and absorb the lessons that mistakes have to offer and, in that fertile context, grow and, when we’re lucky, transcend our limitations.
Tangential observations

I see a few phenomena coalescing in U.S. culture that I dislike that may or may not be related to the effects of prolific stigmatization (but I also offered up other topical possibilities that could be more relevant to each issue):

  • punishing mistakes is more important than learning from them (could be related to perfection and deification)
  • penalizing crime is more important than preventing it (could be an issue of proactive foresight versus reactive imperative)
  • being wrong once is more important than being right thrice (could be about calculating risk in order to minimize it)
  • being safe is more important than being free (could be about different perspectives on what relevantly affects our quality of life)
  • image is more important than character (could be more relevant to "do the ends justify the means?")
  • winning arguments is more important than understanding perspectives (could be about conflating victory with superiority)

Etc. etc. etc.

Tangential Questions: Is there a connection between these trends? If so, what? Do you see different trends? Should these patterns hold or change? ( --Will they? --Can they?) How do U.S. trends compare to other countries'?
Personal thoughts

Aren't humility and honesty the building blocks of integrity? Doesn't everyone make mistakes? Isn't it a given that not all mistakes are created equal?

American public culture is obsessed with sniffing out the mistakes of public and expert figures and raking them over the coals for it. Politicians, celebrities, teachers, clergy members, scientists, doctors, parents... and ambitious kids apparently. In fact, people seem so preoccupied with identifying mistakes (and meting out "justice") that they don't stop to ask how significant they are.

This obsession is understandable of course. Human errors provide us context to judge their character and determine whether we support or oppose their position/status/authority and they may not like the results. It's also an opportunity for instruction and growth. Mistakes happen all the time and shouldn't become a narrative on a person's entire character. People fail to volunteer their mistakes, which encourages this fox-and-hound chase...but which came first? (another causality dilemma)

Sir Ken Robinson believes stigmatizing mistakes stifles creativity.

I think our cultural obsession with "evil" makes us paranoid, so that when a simple mistake happens, we assume the worst, but this could be an example of a different cultural shift. (For example, Bill Maher refers to it as the negative effects of a feminized society.)

I don't think there is a simple solution to our societal ills... but I think awareness sparks discussion and introspection, and that is the most effective redress we can manage oftentimes.