Having grown up never getting a trophy for anything, except a bumper bowling league I was in when I was seven, the awards I do win actually mean something to me. My MVP medal, though actually plastic, that I earned from a manager at work, after having only worked with him for three months, is one of few awards I received there that feels like there was some legitimate thought and feeling behind it, that it wasn’t just given to me because I was simply there. There’s a big difference between earning a trophy or award and simply getting one. One makes you work hard, the other makes you show up.
So, the ‘everyone gets a trophy’ idea was to promote self-esteem, on the sense that it would keep the lesser-performing kids from feeling like shit. But here’s the thing. Some little boys just aren’t any good at baseball. If they’re getting trophies anyway, then they’re under the mistaken impression that they’re the next Hank Aaron, and they try out for the school team. And then they get their first dose of reality, which ends up being more detrimental to their self-esteem, that thing we were all trying to protect in the first place. In the meantime, when the kid was six years old, instead of showing up and sitting on the bench for two hours after striking out in tee-ball, he could have taken that time to learn that he had an amazing aptitude for analytical thinking, and joined the chess club or something. Instead, he gets cut from the baseball team, gets all down on himself, and doesn’t bother attempting to excel at anything.
And yet… if someone does actually work to complete something, works hard and succeeds, we don’t want anyone to extend congratulations to them. When I first saw this on the news tonight, my just just dropped. In South Carolina and Ohio, students are being punished, by withholding awards that they rightfully earned – their high school diplomas – because their friends and family cheered them on at graduation.
A mother in Florence, SC, was led out of her daughter’s graduation in handcuffs, for shouting “Yay! That’s my baby!” As her daughter crossed the stage. While there is always the possibility that she actually shouted more than that, I’d put money on it that she didn’t say anything out of line and that the family of the next graduating student was able to hear their kid’s name. There was tons of cheering at my high school graduation – and even my college graduation – from both parents and fellow graduates, and everyone was able to hear everyone’s name.
In Ohio, football player Anthony Cornist received cheers from family, friends, other students, other families, and even teachers. Yet, rather than receiving his diploma in the mail after graduation, he received a letter from the principal: “I will be holding your diploma in the main office due to the excessive cheering your guests displayed during the Roll Call.” The letter also demanded that Cornist or his family members do 20 hours of community service to get his diploma, to which the family said… well, take a guess what they said.
Slightly unrelated, a group of students in Tennessee are not able to get their diplomas unless they complete community service also. What did they do? Well, they (and their families) sat quietly during graduation, but their caps were decorated. The school forbid it, but one student said, “We’re going to decorate our caps anyway because we paid for them.” And why not? Who are decorated caps hurting?
The comments on this news story sum everything up completely. Commenter Tashibelle says, “In almost every graduating class there is at least one kid graduating who doesn’t have anyone there to support or cheer for them – could be a foster kid or a kid with parents who just don’t care, etc. There is nothing wrong with feeling proud of your kid, but there is something wrong with not respecting all the kids and the other parents. Sadly, too many parents think only of themselves and their own kids, not the others, and they raise their kids to think the same way.”
Um, hold up Tashibelle. Let’s take your exact line, “There is nothing wrong with feeling proud of your kid.” Parents do not have the responsibility to bolster some other kid. At the risk of sounding harsh, that one kid who has no one to support them has probably never had someone there to cheer them on, so graduation should be no different. For some of these students, the fact that they made it to graduation is a big deal, and there is nothing wrong with feeling proud of your kid.
The fact of the matter is, this is the “everyone gets a trophy” generation. School administration feel that some students feel left out because no one cheers for them, so they feel that the other kids shouldn’t be singled out for accomplishments. It takes a few moments for each student to make it across the stage, that gives their friends and family time to be excited. As long as no one is shouting anything innappropriate and they quiet down in time for the next student’s name to be called, what is the problem?