Back in my day, ribbons/medals/trophies (and even the lowly certificate) were awarded for “placing” in a competition, with the coveted trophy usually being reserved for the upper echelon such as first place.
Even certificates were a big deal; like at the end 10th grade when I was selected from my 10th grade peers as “Biology Student of the Year”. This high honor was only deemed certificate worthy, and now that I think about it, I should call my high school and demand a trophy for this esteemed accomplishment.
I was talking to a mother whose daughter participated in tryouts for a sports team. Her daughter made the team. However, her friend’s daughter did not make the team. Guess what happened next? The mother complained that it was unfair and the school folded like a lawn chair and let her on the team. Sound familiar? It’s a classic case of “it’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease”.
When I tried out for the basketball team in 7th grade, I didn’t make the team. Ummm…have I met myself? I had a snowball’s chance in hell to make the team. Of course, I was crushed and defeated and very upset. If my mother had intervened to get me on the team, the embarrassment of knowing that the only reason I was let on was because my mother pitched a fit would have been far, far worse.
In my formative years, I don’t remember awards being handed out for just showing up and participating. My daughter, who is only 6 years old, has amassed quite a collection of trophies, medals, ribbons and certificates; all awarded for showing up and participating. If she continues this stellar participation performance, we will need a trophy case very soon.
Her view is already distorted and I realized this as I explained that Gold, Silver, Bronze medals in the Olympics are awarded for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place and that’s it. It doesn’t mean that someone isn’t good enough or is being slighted or is being called out for not measuring up. It means the people who won them earned it and their performance in that moment was top notch, period.
I am all for providing children, especially the younger set, with a reward (not award) for participating on a team such as a tee shirt or certificate. Fostering camaraderie, teamwork and memories of being part of something are all very positive. What bugs me is that we no longer have losers; just the “last winners”.
Let’s look at real life. Teachers assign grades that are earned – A, B, C, D, F – and no matter how Herculean the effort, the grade assigned is tied to the performance of the task. My boss is not giving me a raise for simply showing up and participating and could give a gnat’s eyelash about time spent; she’s more interested in the results. My boss does not dole out annual bonus money evenly across the team. She stack ranks the team based on performance to metrics and awards accordingly.
I understand the “positive intent” in awarding participation trophies however I wonder about the unintended consequences of doing so. Does the “everybody wins” philosophy provide a false sense of entitlement? Are we failing to prepare children for real life?
Smarties, let me hear from you! What do you think?
This is a POWERFUL video that I pulled in from the comments section today – 12 minutes but you should watch this!