Monday, August 28, 2006

A Sense of Entitlement

I looked for a good quote this morning and found nothing that fit my mood or this blog, warning, rant ahead.

I lay thinking last night about the "awards" thingie my DD went to at the library for the summer reading program, and how every child there received the same exact certificate and the same prizes whether they read 1 hour or 100 hours. The librarian said that she wanted all the kids to feel good about having participated at all.

And I understand this. But I don't agree with it.

My daughter and another girl read 126 and 123 hours respectively. That's amazing. They were the best. They applied themselves and excelled at the challenge posed during the program and they deserved more recognition that the girl who read three hours. If this were an isolated incidence, I don't know if it would have bothered me so much.

When I was young, we "tried out" for the school athletic teams. And only the best made it on. That's as it should be (and I'm sorry for the folks who are clumsy or otherwise unable to play sports well... but God gave you a separate set of gifts). Nowadays, everyone is "entitled" to play. We had a little league team here that recently lost a game by default because one of their players didn't play enough minutes -- even though they won on the score board. Apparently there is a rule that everyone has to play a certain amount of time, regardless of talent -- and since, if a child tries out they have to be on the team, sometimes this means that a team won't do well.

In real life, the professional teams don't take everyone that tries out. We are giving our kids a sense of entitlement that they shouldn't have. Worse, we aren't rewarding excellence in those children who do exceptionally well at something (whether it's chess club, drama, sports or whatever).

If we don't reward excellence, then why should anyone pursue it?

That's like saying that I deserve a publishing contract from whatever publisher I send my completed novel to. I "tried out", didn't I? You mean everyone doesn't get to "play"?

It's no wonder that bankruptcy filings are up (you mean I'm not entitled to buy whatever I want??), crime is up (If you have it and I want it, I get to take it - whether that's your purse, your car, your sexuality or your life), and work ethic is down, down, down (companies can hardly fire a substandard worker for fear of a lawsuit).

Very sad.

Amended to add:

It occurs to me, after reading some of the comments on this post, that it could be misconstrued that I'm throwing a bit of a tantrum because my daughter wasn't recognized for her accomplishment. To be honest, she didn't know the difference, and was thrilled with the giant starfish she chose from the prize table. The point I was making is that we seem to be afraid to hurt kids feelings in any way shape or form. And in my opinion (which is just that -- my opinion) this can hurt a child worse than telling him or her they are incorrect or that they can do better.

When I read that teachers are no longer using red pens to correct their students papers because it's "frightening" or that a little league team loses on a technicality when they were trying their best, I get a little steamed.

We should teach our kids right and wrong. We should show them how to do their best and to figure our their strengths. We're all different, with different gifts. Let's show our kids how to be the best they can be, not the best their neighbor can. But if we don't give them a reason to excel, why should they?

I have a feeling I'm still not getting what's in my brain across to the rest of you. Did I just dig my hole deeper? *sigh*

Oh... here's an article on that I read about this same subject. In case you're interested.


Ceri said...

*Standing O* Excellent rant and I agree wholeheartedly. Kudos to your daughter and the other girl who did a fabulous job on the reading program. They should receive special recognition for going above and beyond. I know we should encourage kids to do well, but this isn't the way at all.

Hope your eyes are doing better. Have a good day.

txztpagh-Today xraying zebras taught physicians about gathering hypothosis's

darcy said...

I remember a PTA meeting back when my kids were in middle school. We used to make ice cream sundaes for the kids who made the honor roll. Someone suggested that we needed to offer more carrots to the rest of the kids. I agreed. We came up with an activity night for all kids who did not fail or have disciplinary action that quarter. Then someone said we should do away with the sundaes. Say what? All kids need encouragement but kids who excel need recognition just as much.

Judy said...

In a lot of the school systems there's talk about doing away with honor rolls completely. I think it's a sad state of affairs... let's hear it for the dumbing down of America.

I remember a child (1st grade) who went home with a math paper with 2+2=5 on it... and the problem was not marked "incorrect." The mother called the teacher to find out why not and the teacher said, "Oh, she'll learn soon enough that 2+2=4. Right now we don't want to hurt their self-esteem by telling them they are wrong." Sheesh.

In our home, it even carried through into games. I wanted my kids to be proud of their actual accomplishments, so I never "let" them win games. I may not have played as aggressively as I would with someone who knew the game, but they knew that when they won, they truly won.

Charity said...

I’m sorry the program didn’t have a sliding scale to recognize those who went above and beyond like your daughter. And of course, I don’t know the other girl in question. Quite possibly her parents forced her to participate and she rebelled by reading as little as humanly possible. Or, on the other hand, maybe she has a serious reading/learning disability and those three hours represent a major achievement.

It wasn’t that long ago when that would have represented an achievement for Andrew.

Marianne Arkins said...

Charity - If I hadn't been seated next to the girl who read three hours (the librarian who ran the program's daughter) and listened to her joke about the whole thing, I probably wouldn't have been so annoyed. I don't disagree that all the kids should have been recognized for their reading, but when someone does the best, it should be recognized as well, IMHO.

Judy - I agree with the game thing, too. It's how I play w/my daughter (I'll share strategy ideas while we play to help her understand better, but she still makes her choices) and it's so much fun to watch her improve.

I think there's a fine line between building self-esteem and building selfishness. All children have gifts - and their strengths should be encouraged and they shouldn't be derided for their weaknesses. But, they know the difference. My daughter will never be an olympic gymnast, no matter how much she enjoys gymnastics because it's not where her strength is - and the US Olympic team shouldn't be required to include her, just because she wants to be.

That's all.

Tori Lennox said...

I get what you're saying and i totally agree. I don't have kids, so can't really go into that aspect, but I remember being a kid. I was one of the klutzy ones. (Still am! *g*) But I was always the top reader at the summer library programs.

darcy said...

You know this subject is near and dear to my heart. In fact, my original response to M included a long-winded rant about forced reading vs voluntary, and what constitutes a challenge for one vs another, and the freakishness of moms who urge their kids to win at any cost ... but then I decided M might think I was talking about her ... and I wasn't.

While I see the dangers of programs like this frustrating kids who are struggling with reading, I think there are bigger sharks in the water when we don't want to recognize excellence for fear of hurting someone else's feelings.

Doing good may well be its own reward but kids need somethng more material than that. When Sara first started gymnastics she was 90% motivated by the trophies. Even as a high school senior, she was still all about the ribbons ;^) Would she have tried so hard if there wasn't a prize involved? I don't know.

OTOH, her bff Brittany absolutely sucked at tumbling. After three years of 5 a week practices, she still couldn't do a back walkover if her life depended on it.

The judges didn't say, 'Oh, it's clear that this is really hard for that girl' and handicap her score because of it. Britt kept working on her tumbling - but she also identified the parts of the sport that she could really compete in, and absolutely slaved to refine them (dance, leaps, choreography, presentation).

The result? At one meet this year Brittany beat out six JV girls who could do back handsprings ... and brought home her first (and only) blue ribbon. AND THE ENTIRE TEAM CHEERED FOR HER.

Charity said...


My point isn’t that we shouldn’t award excellence. My point is exclusion. And you made my point with the example of Britt. No one said (or perhaps they did, and she didn’t listen): You can’t participate because you lack the major skills to be a gymnast.

In high school, I sucked at public speaking, but no one said I couldn’t join the speech team. I did it because I knew I couldn’t go through life afraid of public speaking. By the end of my senior year, I was brining home HM ribbons and I once made it to the finals and got a trophy. But I went through a solid year before that of being quite possibly the lowest ranked participant in every single tournament. No one cut me any slack. But they also gave me the opportunity.

Sorry, it’s my own knee-jerk reaction. And I apologize to M. This has nothing to do with her or her post. Often these leagues/activities smack of elitism and exclusion, and well, few things make me angrier than that.

Mea culpa. I’ll be quiet now.

Anonymous said...

I admit that I’m believer that children--especially small ones--should be rewarded for their efforts. But that doesn’t mean that their reward should be the same as the reward for the ones that went above and beyond.

I spent two years working as a teacher assistant at the local elementary school. On the 'teachers no longer using red pens' yep, that’s true in the school I worked at. Also true that they didn’t have an 'honor roll' because they didn’t want the children who didn’t make the honor roll to feel excluded.

In addition, their policy was no child would be held back more than once. It didn’t matter if the child NEEDED to be held back again. The reason? It would be too embarrassing for the child, because they would be much bigger and older than the other children in the class. Sorry, but I think when that child graduates high school and still can’t read, it might be even more embarrassing. And that’s IF they graduate, because there’s a good chance they’ll get frustrated because they’re so far behind and they’ll end up quitting. With that said, I have no idea what the policy of the middle and high schools were in regard to holding a child back/sending a child on to the next grade, but basically they were sending kids to middle school who weren’t academically ready to be there, which was just setting the child up for failure.

Oh, and 'no child left behind' didn’t fix the problems. Yes, improvements were made, but they were made at the expense of the other students. Children were still pushed on to the next grade even when they weren’t ready, and then the teacher spent 3/4 of the school year focusing on getting those students up to grade level. That's wonderful, BUT guess what happened to the kids who were already at grade level?

Okay, I’ll stop now, because I could go on and on about this.

And yes, I’m posting anonymously, because I really don’t need my former employer seeing me on the Internet ranting about these issues. Our principal was very big on the employees supporting the decisions and policies of the school. We could rant among ourselves, but when it came to dealing with the public...