On the radio yesterday I heard a story about a middle school in Ipswich, Massachusetts that is cancelling a traditional evening event where students are honored for exceptional performance during the school year. The reason given, according to the radio story, was that the special event is only for honor students and their families and that the rest of the student body is not invited. The principal says that the majority of students who are not invited can feel badly about themselves because they aren’t getting an award.
Parents of the honor students are upset and disappointed because their children worked hard for the honors and won’t have a special event for it. As I listened to the story I was inclined to agree. As I read an article about it this morning I began changing my mind.
"The honors night, which can be a great sense of pride for the recipients' families, can also be devastating to a child who has worked extremely hard in a difficult class but who, despite growth, has not been able to maintain a high grade point average," Principal David Fabrizio wrote in a letter to the parents.
I completely disagree with this way of thinking. Children need to learn how to deal with disappointment and the fact that they may or may not live up to the same level of achievement as someone else. Many children’s sports programs are going to the “no winner, no loser” concept to “protect children’s self-esteem.” They don’t want the team that loses to feel that loss (and learn to deal with disappointment) so they don’t keep score and make them all winners no matter how badly some play. Then they give the same award/trophy to all the kids and don’t make any effort to reward the more accomplished ones. It’s ridiculous. How does a kid ever learn to deal with losing and move on if he’s not allowed to lose? It’s a ball game, for God’s sake.
What they left out of the radio story that was included in the printed article was this: "We took it from an exclusive nighttime ceremony where only honors students were invited and rolled it into our end-of-the-year assembly," Fabrizio said. "That way, everybody can celebrate their and their peers' achievements.
"Now see – this I can agree with, although I don’t understand how he thinks giving honors to students in their own private celebration will somehow be more devastating to that child (who worked hard but didn’t quite get there) than it will be when that same child actually watches others get the awards and he/she doesn’t get one. I believe that's how it should be - honor the outstanding achievers in front of their peers, not to make their peers feel badly but to inspire their peers to try harder so next time they get the award. And yes, there will always be some who can't do it. But regardless of what some people want you to believe, life has never been and will never be fair. Maybe the Principal is simply going to give honors to all of the kids to protect their fragile self-esteems and make them all feel better about themselves.
When did children’s egos get so fragile that they can’t be allowed to lose a baseball game? Children are the most resilient of all humans. We are raising a generation of pansies who will never make it in the real world because they won’t learn at an early age how to deal with frustration and failure. Then, when they fail at something as adults, they’ll be devastated. I guess anyone interested in Psychology has a great future in this country. Of course, professional sports teams will be losing big money because without competition in their younger years there will be less kids interested in playing sports as adults. That, in and of itself, may not be a bad thing. But that's a topic for another day....