Monday, June 6, 2016

Leveling the Playing Field

A couple of weeks ago, I was eavesdropping on some parents talking at one of my grandson's soccer games. (Let's call that being attentive to my surroundings as opposed to me being nosy, shall we?)  This particular conversation was about "participation" trophies.  It seems that parents are very divided on the subject of kids getting any type of reward whether it be a trophy, or a lesser token such as a medal or badge,  for just participating in some type of activity.

One of the parents mentioned that their child had received a medallion for being on a soccer team but the parent told the child not to accept it as it was sending a message that it was a reward for being a team player.  (NOTE: just for full disclosure these children are 1st and 2nd graders.)

"What does that have to do with anything?," you might ask.  Well....I was reading a blog over at The Boogie Man Is My Friend, where she mentioned an article about a Texas High School that doesn't allow the students that are affiliated with the National Honor Society to wear the National Honor Society insignia or pin on their graduation gowns. The high school in Plano, Texas has a rule that NO insignia, emblem, or regalia can be displayed on individual graduate's gown,  as it sets the student apart from other students.  (ANOTHER NOTE: Momma Fargo over at The Boogie Man is My Friend is an ex-cop that is very funny, smart and seems to always know what's going on in the world.)
Not all activities garner the same amount of notoriety. we have two extremes but both doing the same thing.  It is leveling all the participants to be equally recognized or not recognized as the case may be,  no matter what their skill level is.   BUT aren't there times that when trying to make everyone feel equally recognized that it is really an inequitable act?

Here's the one breath we hear people telling us the virtues of being unique, we should strive to excel,  we should attempt to attain our individual best, we should be true to ourselves...but in other situations people want to make sure that everyone is recognized as absolute equals so no one feels ostracized,  glorified, violated or venerated...and gawd forbid "offended".

There have been plenty of times in my own life that I would have welcomed anonymity. Yes, there have been  times I have been offended and felt ostracized.  You might remember my post from a few weeks ago, Whacks and Whackadoos where I got off to an auspicious start in grade school by drawing on my fat-lined paper the first day before given permission but one thing I didn't mention is that I did it left handed.  In today's world that is no big deal but "not-so-much-good" old days it was, in fact, the equivalent of grade school insurrection. Conformity was the name of the game back then.  The whole idea of being right-handed or left-handed plagued me for a number of years. Depending on where I lived and who I lived with, dictated which hand I could use.  More times than not, I was asked to use my right hand which evidently made everyone else more comfortable. 
We can be thankful that Hester didn't have to explain the A to a six year old.
By rights, in that time frame, I should have been made to wear a big red L on my dress as a symbol of my deviant behavior.  Had I had any knowledge of Hester Prynne, I would of felt a certain kinship.

Today, of course, we have evolved in some ways.  In most cases, we recognize that singling out people because they are "different", especially in cases where a person would feel offended, inferior or victimized.... BUT...if we go the extra step to minimize the merits of others as to not offend, isn't that equally wrong?

Despite my infirmity of using the wrong hand, I did manage to become an excellent student.  And when I graduated I did graduate as a National Honor Student. In our school, I believe that we wore a gold tassel on our mortarboards but, frankly it's been so long ago that I hardly remember.  I do, however, remember when both of my children wore gold stoles on their college graduation gowns because they graduated with honors.

I doubt that my kids would of been angry if they were told that they couldn't of worn the stoles but I think I might of been upset.  They EARNED the right by putting in the work.

Do I think that there should be trophies for everyone on a team?  NO, I think everything can be over done, given a chance.  Patches, pins or certificates showing participation...sure why not?
Children can feel inclusion without it being raised to the status of being "rewarded". All people, young and old, have to learn the concept of winning and losing, achieving and failing...but removing all  forms of meritocracy surely would lead to mediocrity.

Maybe not everything needs to be rewarded but when someone excels in an particular endeavor, why not acknowledge it? Maybe just doing a job isn't cause for praise but maybe doing a job well does deserve some praise.

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