Congratulations, You Won But You Can't Tell Anybody

Congratulations, You Won But You Can't Tell Anybody

This is true. A boy I know who attends a private grade school was informed that he had been given end-of-the-school-year awards in both academic and character categories. However, the caveat was that he would forfeit these awards if any of his classmates found out. The reason- the administration did not want any of the other children to feel bad about not receiving recognition.

Is this policy wise or misguided? My vote is for misguided. Misguided in the same way that unwarranted grade inflation and “everyone gets a trophy” policies are in academic settings and children’s sports leagues that send a mixed message- play to win, but in the end “everyone’s a winner.” Really? Even children understand that this isn’t reality and pretending like it is a load of you know what.

What’s going on here is diluting what “success” means, underestimating children, underestimating parents, as well as a failure to understand how children learn, and forge the character that results in bone fide achievement. In the time of England’s world domination it was said that this country’s battles were won on the playing fields of Eton, an elite school that vigorously promoted intellectual and athletic competition among their students. The downside of the approach in that era was that it also fomented brutality and probably traumatized many who could not keep up or were ostracized. The challenge we face in our present culture is how to not throw out the baby with the bathwater, meaning, developing institutions and policies that teach children the truths of life and fortify them for their futures in a positive and inclusive manner.

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