Our children are under assault. I’m not just talking about the every growing list of scandals plaguing our schools, that if they were happening in any other institution, the media would be all over it. This assault is also not just from the various experiments in teaching, or the ridiculous over-reactions we’ve seen recently over pastries that look like they were bitten into the shape of a gun. I shudder to think what idiocy is next.
It’s an assault of stripping our children’s joy in achievement, of having friends and excelling in academics and in sports. It’s the underlying push for political correctness to be demonstrated at in all areas of school life. It’s the seemingly never-ending list of championing of mediocrity in the name of ‘fairness’:
No in school birthday parties.
No hugging your friends.
A trophy for just playing.
Kids told not to brag or be happy when they receive a good grade – even in college.
The message here is conform. Be like your everyone else, don’t step out of line. Don’t strive, don’t win. Winning is not the goal here, just showing up is. After all, it’s only fair.
I’m talking about the ‘everyone gets a trophy’ mentality and it’s killing our future, not just the future of our individual children, but the future of our nation. Political correctness is beating down the drive to succeed out of our kids. Political correctness is not performing a solo act here, social justice is also playing a role. Not surprising, since where you have one you usually have the other. Political correctness gets you to shut up and fall in line, then social justice moves in and makes sure you stay put.
Now, let’s not get off on a some kind of tirade that just slams our schools. There is value there, albeit in diminishing returns. There is something to be said for encouraging a sense of community and team work. The idea of promoting equality, showing kindness and being thoughtful in how you treat your peers is important as well. These things are not my gripe. My frustration is aimed more at the veil of the nanny state mentality being placed over the eyes of our children and that becoming the norm.
Our children are being told at home they are special and then at school, being told they are not. At school, they’re told they can do what everyone else can do, because no one is different or at least school makes it seem that way by manipulating the environment as seen in the above list. At school, it’s not hard work that rewarded, it’s maintaining the status quo of just doing what is required. The nudging of our kids to hone their own particular skill sets began decades ago. A hive-mind mentality is what is rewarded, not individual achievement. Equally disturbing is the idea that while no one can be rewarded for excellence, some can be exempted from discipline. So much for that ‘equality’ crap.
At home, kids are told they can be whatever they want to be if they just work hard. Parents are not faultless, however, and the evolution of the “helicopter” parent is a good example. How dare anyone cast a shadow on their little snowflakes? The idea that a kid can be all they can be, yet someone will help them even if they fail is simultaneously promoted. There is an underlying of a sense of entitlement being floated here.
There was a speech given at a commencement last year I’d like to share. It contains a bit of the ‘you’re not special‘ — in a way:
This teacher who gave this speech, in a way, shows both sides of the coin I’ve been trying to lay out here. It’s a mixed bag of ‘life is hard, get over yourself’ and ‘you can do it if you try to do what you love’. His speech is really about life becoming a big game of appearances and politics. Funnily enough, his own speech is a prime example of that. One section stood out for me:
No longer is it how you play the game, no longer is it even whether you win or lose, or learn or grow, or enjoy yourself doing it… Now it’s “So what does this get me?” As a consequence, we cheapen worthy endeavors, and building a Guatemalan medical clinic becomes more about the application to Bowdoin than the well-being of Guatemalans. It’s an epidemic — and in its way, not even dear old Wellesley High is immune… one of the best of the 37,000 nationwide, Wellesley High School… where good is no longer good enough, where a B is the new C, and the midlevel curriculum is called Advanced College Placement.
With these kind of conflicting messages — Is it any wonder we have a scads of confused young people camping out in public parks, throwing, what in essence, is a nothing more than a big temper tantrum being leveraged behind the scenes for political gain and demanding things like someone should pay their student loans off for them?
But I digress…
On a personal note, the idea of participation trophies, talk of ‘level playing fields’, ‘fairness’ and every other PC code word makes my skin crawl and my blood boil. I’ve come to the conclusion that my generation was raised far differently – the basics of fair play then were things like don’t cheat instead of letting the other kid walk all over you so he or she doesn’t feel bad.
Our parents taught us the value of a dollar, saving our money, owning up to our mistakes while learning from them, not giving up, having confidence in our own abilities, respect is earned and most of all, that life isn’t fair. Someone will always be richer, faster, stronger, prettier or smarter — stop paying attention to what everyone else is doing and focus on what you can do.
We also learned not to disparage others for their talents or let it make you feel like less of a person because they had something you didn’t. That’s not to say that wanting to achieve something that another person has done is unhealthy – to the contrary, competition should be encouraged. Competition and success are great motivators, but these are not the only thing that propel achievement. I suppose this why I find myself gritting my teeth whenever our politicians launch into a class warfare diatribe. The hypocrisy of someone who has risen to the top of public view and influence, via such competition and success, standing there telling others they have to lay down and be just like everyone else kills me. What’s worse is when they tell you those who have done well are to blame for whatever is wrong in their lives. Screw them and the ‘fairness’ horse they rode in on.
My dad used to tell me to never be afraid of a hard day’s work because few people rise quickly to the top of the heap. An analogy he once used was, and I paraphrase, ‘we all have our role in the big play of life and not everyone can be the lead. That doesn’t mean we quit the production and can’t work our way up from stage hand to star. Do your part and do it well.‘ Bingo.
It’s not all gloom and doom. I feel encouraged that my kids are in a generation now that are being instilled with the values and principles that I had growing up. I know as a parent, my kids are learning these lessons. Sure, I spoil them here and there like any parent does but at the end of the day, they know they are their own person. They are capable of great things, but those things don’t come from other people. Those things come from the choices and decisions they make.
What bothers me most is that in purging the concepts of winning and losing from our the landscapes of our children’s lives, we’ve also purged self-responsibility and consequences. Well, not in my house.