Celebrating the ordinary

At every step of the way, children are celebrated for routine accomplishments, complains a Seattle columnist after attending a preschool graduation ceremony, which was rivaled only by the kindergarten graduation ceremony.

I congratulated my son for earning the “Player of the Game” certificate after a recent baseball game. “Oh, Mom,” he said, “It doesn’t mean I actually played a good game. They always give this to the kid who played the worst so he won’t feel bad.” Are we supposed to frame this certificate and hang it on the wall?

. . . not every single rite of passage or piece of homework deserves a full-blown parade. I sympathize with the sensible superhero Mr. Incredible, who lamented, “We keep coming up with new ways to celebrate mediocrity.” He’s right. How will we teach our kids to sweat their way to excellence if every single achievement is rewarded with a trophy?

If everything’s celebrated, nothing’s special.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. BadaBing says:

    Take a deep breath. Exhale. Repeat after me. “Nobody or nothing is better than anyone or anything else.” Repeat 100 times each morning.

  2. SuperSub says:

    But I am better than a heck of a lot of people 😛

  3. Surprisingly, although we have little control over what other people do, we have a tremendous amount of control over what we do. “We” do not have to celebrate mediocrity. As Arlo Guthrie said
    (and I quote),

    You know, if
    one person, just one person does it they may think he’s really sick and
    they won’t take him. And if two people, two people do it, in harmony,
    they may think they’re both strange and they won’t take either of them.
    And three people do it, three, can you imagine, three people walking in
    singin a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out. They may think it’s an
    organization. And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day,I said
    fifty people a day walking in singin a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and
    walking out. And friends they may thinks it’s a movement.

  4. Another problem with the “celebrate everything” mentality, is that you raise a generation of students who, when they get to college, ask for “extra credit,” simply because they happened to show up to class on a particular day. Or employees who think showing up is enough to earn them their paycheck and promotion (some industries notwithstanding, there are a lot of workplaces where you actually have to WORK in order to keep your job)

    There are a lot of things we are all expected to do that are not celebrated; why not let kids figure this out early on in life?

    The only “graduations” I ever had were high school, college, and grad school. And I don’t remember getting “certificates” at the end of the school year. And I survived.

  5. dhanson says:

    Kids aren’t fooled by this. The boy who got the “Player of the Game” certificate knew what was really going on. How can kids ever feel good when they really DO accomplish something if they are subjected to all this hoopla over nothing? How will they be able to tell when they really deserve that pat on the back?

  6. Mike in Texas says:

    This reminds me of a bumper sticker I saw. It said:

    “Remember you’re unique, just like everyone else”

  7. One of our local schools recently gave out bumper stickers that read, “At [School Name] Elementary School we honor all our students.”

    I’m sure they meant that as a positive, but I didn’t take it that way.

  8. RCC wrote (channelling Arlo Guthrie):

    And if two people, two people do it, in harmony, they may think they’re both strange and they won’t take either of them.

    What Arlo Guthrie actually sang:

    And if two people, two people do it, in harmony, they may think they’re both faggots and they won’t take either of them.

    Given Mr. Guthrie’s politics, I’m sure he’d prefer your politically correct post-editting to my accuracy but you can never tell with artists.

    Given his politics though, I’m quite sure he’d be enthusiastic about the phony egalitarianism of the school Ms. Perrow sends her child too.

    After all, it’s only the superior few who understand that we’re all the same.

  9. Allen, you realize you’re insulting me for agreeing with you, right?

  10. Are you sure? I thought I was calling you on political correctness.

    I was insulting Arlo Guthrie for being a faddish, self-indulgent, spoiled, little shtunk who thinks glibness and courage are interchangeable.

    Oh yeah, I was also expressing disdain for the faux egalitarianism of the unnamed school and the people who are stricken with the vapors in the presence of any display of competitiveness more strenous then snippy remarks about taste in clothing.

  11. I am PC sometimes. Comes from the job. When you actually teach gay students (why do they all come out in 10th grade in my room???), you learn to be very careful. Adults can take the rough and tumble, but 16-year-old boys can’t. Sorry. I hereby edit back in the word “faggot” just for you.

  12. RCC wrote:

    Adults can take the rough and tumble, but 16-year-old boys can’t.

    I wonder. By the time you’re sixteen years old you’re old enough to appreciate unappetizing truths if they’re broached properly and old enough to detest the patronization that’s implicit in political correctness. That, by the way, is what I think is driving the rise of the so-called “South Park conservatives”.

    The key phrase is “broached properly”. But then judgement is what professional are paid for.

    Sorry. I hereby edit back in the word “faggot” just for you.

    You are forgiven. An act of contrition and two Hail Mary’s.

  13. Actually, Allen, they can’t. I wish they were as tough as they want us to believe, but if you did the number of suicide interventions I do every year, you’d understand my pov on this.

    If you only knew how many Hail Mary’s I silently pray during a typical teaching day :).

  14. RCC wrote:

    I wish they were as tough as they want us to believe, but if you did the number of suicide interventions I do every year, you’d understand my pov on this.

    Well first, your classroom isn’t the only place they run into the word “faggot”. Consequently, patronizing them by excising the word isn’t going to help them. It merely accentuates their vulnerability.

    Second, how many suicide – gay teenage suicide – interventions do you do every year and under what conditions? I’m not so much skeptical of your experience as I am of the implication that your experience can be extrapolated to cover the general case. For instance, if you work at a hotline your experience is likely to be highly unrepresentative.

    A bit of googling suggests that the case for gay, teenage suicide may have as much credibility as the not-so-recent, unlamented “homelessness epidemic” or “Silent Spring”.

    Expunging a word from the vocabulary to shield vulnerable teenagers from the knowledge of bigotry seems like a pretty worthless exercise if you aren’t also going to also shield them from the knowledge of physical violence. Which is more likely to frighten/depress someone, the knowledge that there are mean names you might be called or the knowledge that you might be subjected to lethal violence?

    Finally, if those kids aren’t going to learn something worthwhile about bigotry in the classroom, like a context to put it in, like there are people who’ve survived it, like there are things that can, under certain circumstances, be done about it, where are they going to learn those things?