I have seen so many articles lately bemoaning the fact that kids now get "participation trophies" and blame that for the sense of entitlement and woes of an entire generation, I understand that getting a trophy just for being on the team seems a little odd, but I understand the problem it is trying to address.
At the end of every school year are awards ceremonies. These things take hours. I endured them as a student. I endured them as a parent. Every year it seemed the same kids got the awards. It became predictable. For the students and the parents.
There were the academic awards. The athletic awards. The character awards. Some of the awards were objective by grades and GPA. Others were voted on by teachers. Some were voted on by fellow students. The smart and the talented got the awards. The popular got the awards. And everybody else sat there.
As a student you learn to deal with it. To expect it. To know that nothing you can do will really change it. As a parent it is more heartbreaking. You hope your child takes it in stride. Learns from it. Develops resiliency and peace with who they are.
As much as awards may be there to encourage students to compete and push themselves to be the best they can be, the reality is that for many students, their best will never, ever be good enough.
Life is not an even playing field. So many factors play into a child's achievements. Some kids are born with intellectual gifts or natural abilities. Some are born into families that are driven and push for accomplishment. Some kids are born into families that have the resources to provide the opportunities that spark interest and hone skills. Some are born with an ear for music or athletic zest dripping from their muscles. Some are born with a bubbly personality and a chatty disposition.
On the converse, some kids are born with challenges. Learning disabilities and ADD and autism spectrum disorders can prove to be hurdles that require much effort to manage. Some kids struggle with anxiety or depression or other mental health challenges that may force academic performance to take a back seat. Some kids are born into homes where there is violence or negligence or addiction or poverty. Survival is the goal.
The fact of the matter is that Average Joe will never be able to compete academically with Mr. Gifted High IQ. The kid raised by a single mom who works the night shift will likely never have the same opportunities to hone his skills as the kid whose parents have traveled with him every weekend, year round, to play in state soccer leagues. The quiet, shy introvert will never catch the attention of the teachers the way Miss Congeniality will. The popular kids stay popular and the not-popular ones rarely have a chance to break into that exclusive club.
Even though I am saying all this, I am not advocating for a trophy for everybody. It is really a pain to store those things and nobody really cares about them anyway. I just want to make the point that all these awards can be frustrating and discouraging and downright painful. Some will try their hardest and never make the grade. Some will give up. Some won't care and never try at all.
I don't know the answer. I am just pondering. I do wonder if the whole awards thing is necessary at all.