I still remember the annual high school Student Awards Banquet.
There was recognition for those who made an effort, and nobody was disappointed or felt left out. As in life, if you tried hard, you were rewarded.
A school in Calgary, Alberta, however, is making headlines for totally removing the Honour Roll and while educators are defending the move, it has parents shaking their heads.
“Awards eventually lose their lustre to students who get them, while often hurting the self-esteem and pride of those who do not receive a certificate,” reads a letter sent by school officials to parents.
I’ve been out of high school for 25 years, and I still know I was on the Honour Roll and achieved a Junior Varsity letter in athletics. It’s no longer on my resume, but for a while it was there to prove that I was active, had a variety of influence, and was committed to working hard and setting goals.
“We’re not saying not to set high goals,” school principal Craig Kittelson told The National Post. “We’re still striving to get them to do their best. Kids want to do their best and we want to support them in doing their best.”
Parents aren’t buying it. They suggest removing rewards lowers the bar. Without celebrating greatness and setting high goals, are we not making being average acceptable?
This was all started in the region by teacher Joe Bower. He campaigned heavily 6 years ago to have the Honour Roll from his school removed and replaced with “unconditional recognition.”
“Instead of using Awards Night and Honors as a way to artificially entice students to learn, we understand that all students should be recognized unconditionally,” he wrote in 2010. “Some of the most thankful parents are those who have children who would never be invited to be recognized by their school’s honor ceremonies.”
It’s easy to see Bower’s bias. He is very active in the way to change the entire education system. He doesn’t believe in homework. He doesn’t believe in grades. He wants to revamp the models with which kids learn.
Change the way kids are taught and learn? Sign me up. I love this. We have kept our kids in a centuries’ old model of education that was meant to churn out people who would sit in rows, listen to authority, and would be great factory workers. (You need to watch this talk from Sir Ken Robinson).
I love that Joe wants to change the system, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with striving for academic greatness and being rewarded when you achieve it.
Bower says that sort of attitude is what he’s trying to stamp out. “Collecting A’s” doesn’t equate to learning, he argues. And he has a valid point, but if that kind of motivation is effective in having students form solid scholastic habits, where’s the issue?
Should schools stop handing out varsity letters? Should their be no Stanley Cup, World Series, or Super Bowl?
No, life is competitive.
By removing this sort of goal setting at schools, we’re just continuing down a path that is making us the worst generation of parents ever.
All we are doing, in the name of making things better for our kids, is making things worse. Our children no longer belong to the bubble wrapped generation, they are further wrapped in emotional protective gear, consistently showered with praise.
Ours is the generation of decision makers that is making motions to stop keeping score on the soccer field. Ours is the generation of decision makers that has deemed Halloween too scary threatening to cancel it or move it to daylight hours on the weekend. Ours is the generation of decision makers that has found “School Bans Honor Roll” to be a cause worth embracing.
Instead of raising the bar of achievement, we are constantly lowering it to make things easier for our kids. We redshirt them at school so they’re bigger than everyone else. We hold half-birthday parties so they don’t feel left out by having a summer celebration. We overdo every event with Pinterest perfection and now this.
All of this ridiculousness was summed up perfectly by the satirical radio program, This Is That, which suggested that soccer associations were going to remove the ball from youth soccer programs.
“We want our children to grow up learning that sport is not about competition, rather it’s about using your imagination. If you imagine you’re good at soccer, then, you are.”
What do you think?