Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I Got Out of Bed Today. Where's My Trophy?

You know what happens when you try to make everything the same? You end up looking for the lowest common denominator. You lower the bar of expectations so that everyone can reach it. And then everyone will feel accomplished and proud, right?

I remember when my daughter's middle school decided to do away with the Accelerated Reader (AR) Program. Let me explain exactly what this educational institution was throwing away. The AR program was a reading program where students would read books in their appropriate range and test over them. The books were given a point value and students earned points with each passing test score. The school volunteers had organized a "store" where students traded reading points for prizes such as games and books and T-shirts and movies and book marks and pizza coupons, etc. In addition, classes from each grade earned a monthly travelling trophy for most points earned as a class. Students could also save up points to attend bi-annual events like Water Day or Ice Cream Socials. But that's not all! Names of students who reached the 100 Point Club were displayed on the entry hall bulletin board.  Reading Enthusiasm was contagious and nearly every student caught the bug! Students recommended books to each other. They spent weekends reading. WEEKENDS! VOLUNTARILY! Competitive readers clamoured to be the first student in the 100 point club. Reading was a Big Ol' Deal!

Then, suddenly, the school announced that it would be phasing out the AR program. I immediately called the school to find out why. You'll never believe the answer. The administration told me that not every student was a good reader and it wasn't fair to slower readers to have to compete with more advanced readers. Seriously? Nevermind the fact that students were excited about reading. The emotional well-being and stability of slow readers was more important than encouraging the exploration of and the enthusiasm for books.

That was the same year they decided to do away with A and B sports teams, as well. Teams would now be divided evenly and everyone would get equal playing time. Nevermind the fact that these students were going to have to try out for high school teams the very next year. The emotional well-being and stability of children who will probably not even want to play ball in high school was more important than the training and success of students who might need basketball to pay their way through college in a few years.

When will educators, administrators, parents and other authority figures realize that thwarting healthy competition doesn't create the emotionally safe environment they seek. Don't get me wrong. "Everybody Plays" absolutely has it's place. My own children have been very happy in both competitive and non-competitive activities. The point is that they understand that the ultimate reward is a sense of accomplishment that is actually earned--no matter what the venue is.

We might have been created equal, but we weren't cloned. We aren't all the same. And thank God for that. Educational institutions, especially, should be the place to encourage accomplishment and reward success.

My guess is that some Whiny Mom got a hold of the school administration that year. Well, Whiny Mom, please get over yourself. Stop coddling your children emotionally. You are turning in them into entitled emotional cripples. Instead, help your child find something he has a passion for and encourage him to strive for excellence. Teach her to compete with herself and the meltdowns over Suzie's superior reading skills will stop. Create your own participation trophy, if you must. If you want to remain a lowest common denominator, find a way to feel comfortable there. Please, allow the rest of us to strive for exponential accomplishment and success.

1 comment:

  1. An even better idea is to help your child discover what he/she excels at and encourage him/her to participate in it, instead of thinking everyone must be a great ball player or reader or whatever.

    I'll be nice and not debate the Obama thing. Imagine how difficult it is to be a liberal in a red state. LOL