Unfair rewards given by teachers

Guy Burstein

(April 1, 2011) — When I was seven, my parents signed me up to play basketball. Like many other sports teams for that age, no one kept track of points, everyone played for an equal amount of time and at the end of the year, everyone, from the most talented to the least, got a cheap plastic trophy. It took me a long time to figure out I was a terrible basketball player. We are raised up to believe mediocrity is to be rewarded in the fear that not doing so will ruin people’s self-esteem. You can’t have class-rankings because you’ll offend low ranking students. There cannot be rewards for athleticism in the risk of angering those who are nonathletic. People who try are not rewarded for effort. It’s all well and good when you are a seven year old playing basketball, but by the time you are in high school, it gets a little ridiculous. This is raising an entire generation of people to have a feeling of self-entitlement. In real life, awards are not given for participation or attendance. In the long run, giving an undeserving student an F will be much more beneficial to him than to give him an A for being present. One day these people will have to figure out that people do not get rewarded for this, and the sooner they do, the better. Even when students do fail, however, they may be inadvertently awarded in different way. Ever since last year when GUSD instituted a a fee for taking summer school, those who failed classes and need to retake them are given the class for free. Meanwhile, the students who do succeed are made to pay and subsidize them. Additionally, the giving of empty awards to those who do not deserve them also serves to delegitimize the awards that are given to people who work hard and are successful. When students who try see that they are not being rewarded any more than those who simply float by on a culture where “everyone is a winner,” they lose motivation. I am not saying that we shouldn’t give people awards for trying. Nor am I claiming that people can’t grow up to be Harvard graduates, CEOs and presidents. However, we cannot continue to tell people that everyone will reach these goals. If students have not been prepared to fail, they will never learn to succeed.