Everyone is *NOT* a Star

Posted on May 28, 2008 at 12:11 AM in Rants

Okay, so it's the end of the school year and most schools either have hosted or are about to host their End-of-the-Year Awards Ceremony. This is a great opportunity to recognize the outstanding achievements of their students for the school year. Tonight was the Junior High Awards Ceremony for our school district.

When I was a kid these awards ceremonies were pretty cool, and truly focused on students that went above and beyond the call of duty and really did special things. But apparently here in the 21st century things are different; so different, in fact, that if you showed up to school at least once during the year and were breathing, you're a "Star"! WTF?!?!?!

Every time I turn around I hear some school teacher or principal or parent telling kids "of course you're a star, everybody is a star!". What a total crock of shit! I thought that schools and parents were supposed to prepare children for adulthood. Since effen when is every adult a star? Effing never, that's when!

I don't know about you, but it really chaps my ass that people are knowingly and willingly ruining kids by teaching this bullshit. It's no wonder that when kids get a job in their late teens or early 20s these days they don't last very long. Why? Because they have never learned how to cope in a world where they don't get special "star" treatment. They have no clue how to just be themselves and contribute their part to the common cause of the team.

Here's what set me off on this little tirade...

A couple of years back we attended the Jr. High awards ceremony and were appalled at the way things were done. We pretty much said "nope, not gonna do this again". Well, the other day at school the kids were having a rehearsal for this ceremony. They were handed cards with their name on it, and were told to go to a particular table if they were not going to be attending and let them know. My son went to that table and turned his card in. He was asked why he wasn't going to be in attendance, and he replied very honestly.

"I just don't want to," he stated, and the teacher thanked him for his honesty. A few minutes later the principal approaches him and says:

"You need to talk to your parents about being here, because you're receiving a very special award. I really think you should be here for it."

As you can imagine, he was intrigued by this, as were we as parents. After all, it must be very special if the principal himself makes it a point to mention it, right?

Fast forward back to this evening. There was no special award. Nothing. His name was read as he walked across stage - as did every other kid, in alphabetical order - and they mentioned 3 "awards" that he was being recognized for:

  1. Overall Band Student of the Year (which he had previously received during a band awards ceremony)
  2. Piano Award (we have no idea wtf that is), and
  3. Outstanding Achievement Award for high scores on all four of the year-end TAKS tests (kinda like the old SATs)

Mind you, two of those three are pretty cool, but they're hardly "exceptional" or "special". Hundreds of kids got those (or similar) awards. I mean, kids are being recognized for "football" or "twirling" or "math club" or "chess club". In other words, anything the school can think of to "award" the kids with something, anything; to be able to call their name out and have them walk across the stage; to put parent's asses in the seats.

This kind of bullshit is a major disservice in two ways:

  1. As already mentioned, it falsely teaches kids to believe that they are stars, and
  2. It completely devalues the truly special awards, and their recipients.

Oh, and the really stupid thing about tonight's activities? They didn't even bother recognizing his biggest accomplishment of the year: 2008 Academic All-American. But hey, why should they mention that? It might make all of the bullshit "awards" actually seem, I don't know, bullshit?

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On 5/28/08 at 1:56 AM, Jason Dean said:

Well put. I could not agree more. Schools today are doing a fantastic job of preparing our children to be Candy-Asses.

My kids are still young (1 and 5) and I am not looking forward to what thing will be like in 6 years when I am in your shoes. It will likely only be worse.

If a person never has to deal with hurt feelings or disappointment until they are an adult, what will happen to them the first time they are faced with that disappointment, or criticism or worse still, rejection.

On 5/28/08 at 2:49 AM, charlie griefer said:

matt gets an award for writing an excellent blog post. well done.

jason gets an award for being the first to comment. excellent work, jason.

you're both stars.

On 5/28/08 at 3:13 AM, TJ Downes said:

Charlie, you get the Nicest Comment So Far Award!

Matt, I can say that I have the same sentiments as you. Kids today in public schools are treated as if they can do no wrong, and if they do it's not their fault. And no matter what their performance or grades are, that they are special. It's just another example of the jackasses we have running our public schools and government.

On 5/28/08 at 8:33 AM, Scott Stroz said:

I don't think the 'everyone is a star" is necessarily a bad thing for younger kids. However, Iit should stop before Jr. High.

I coach my sons' soccer league, everyone gets a trophy. Now for the U6 (under 6) league, or even the U8 (under 8) divisions this is OK with me. But after that, giving a trohy to every kid is just ridiculous.

As an aside, they also have 'Silent Staurday' once a year where you are not allowed to cheer for your child, or as a coach, offer guidence during the game. This is apparently a national thing for this league and is done under the guise that the game is for the kids to perform on ther own. However, I have been told by some that it was started becasue some kids' parent complained that other parents were being too enthusiastic in cheerin gfro thei child. Give me abreak.

On 5/28/08 at 9:12 AM, Nick Kwiatkowski said:

This, coupled with constant grade-inflation spells real trouble.

It used to be that the an average student got C's, dumb kids got D's, smart kids got B's, and really bright kids got A's. Not only that, most schools also do weighted grades, so that some classes that are considered 'harder' were on a 5 point scale instead of the 4-point scale. Average kids are getting A's in many schools.

Like in your post, this not only dilutes that real achievers, but it makes everybody think they are smarter than they really are. I've got kids graduating from High School, attending a major university that had a 3.8 GPA barely knowing High School level math. This coming fall semester, our remedial math program is the largest it has ever been. We are talking about Algebra 1, folks!

Oh, and then there is the no-punishment rules many parents have. "Oh, poor Johnny is writing on the walls with a permanent marker. Lets give him a gold star, and not stifle his creativity by telling him he's bad."

Sorry for the rant.. Yeah...

On 5/28/08 at 9:30 AM, Joe Rinehart said:

100% agree. Even while growing up as a little kid in a Montessori school, we were rewarded in proportion to performance. I don't think there's anything unfair or demeaning about that - while I got rewards in geometry and math, where I did well naturally, the rewards that meant more to me were the ones I got for improving in areas where I struggled (handwriting sticks out in my memory).

Now that I'm a parent, this culture of rewarding the least common denominator really scares me. I want Ava to grow up knowing I value her true accomplishments, but I feel like the chips are stacked against me. I'm afraid that in four years everyone around her will want to reward her for any little thing, making any real accomplishment I or Dale praise her for no more meaningful than an "Exceptional at Obeying Gravity" blue ribbon that she's likely to "win" at school.

Is there anyone out there with an educational background who can explain where this came from? My explanations for it are biased because my political leanings give me the only context in which I can form an opinion: I feel like we've let an entitlement culture drip down from adulthood into our nation's youth.

On 5/28/08 at 9:55 AM, marc esher said:

Back before I was a programmer, I taught senior English in high school. In one of my "Average" classes (i.e. not going to Princeton), we had a writing assignment and I gave this one girl a pretty low grade. She told me she was really hurt by it because she worked hard and all that. She gave me some spiel about self esteem if I remember correctly. Anyhoo, we had a good talk and I told her that "real" esteem comes when you earn it, not when you have it given to you, and that were she to rewrite the paper and earn her good grade, she'd feel a whole lot better than if I had just rewarded her for her hard work. She was put off by that I thought.

End of the year rolls around, and she went to the principal to talk about me. She wanted to know what she could do to get me more money or a promotion or something because of that little lesson.

Of all the things I remember about my teaching days, that's one that stands out.

Being tough is hard work. And it requires an incredible amount of love, I think. But just as important, if not more, it requires incredible character and conviction. You gotta believe that you're doing the right thing for the kiddoes by helping them build themselves up. I understand why so many parents and educators have trouble with it. That's a shame.

We could all use a little more supernanny in us!

On 5/28/08 at 10:24 AM, Gus said:

Now everybody look in the mirror and say "Oh my god.... I've turned into my father!"

"Why when I was a kid, we walked 5 miles each way in a blizzard to get to school, then did 9 hours of homework by candle light!"

"Kids today aren't going to learn the hard lessons in life!"

"These kids don't know what REAL music is!"

Your kids will be saying the same thing to their kids. Lighten up and enjoy your kids childhood. Their will be more than enough chances for them to learn from the school of hard knocks.

(Father to 9 year old twin boys)

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