What is the Answer?

I saw an article this morning about a school that is trying to teach young children about empathy and compassion. That sounded great, it was just the one statement that I had a problem with.  In order to teach about empathy and compassion they will not be giving out any type of awards or trophies for achievements or sports events anymore.

I know decisions like this have been made for awhile now by different schools, and even though it is nothing new, it still bothers me.  What are we really teaching our children by this? Is this really the way to help them be more compassionate and empathetic? It doesn’t make sense to me, but perhaps I am missing something.

The argument I have always heard is that they don’t want to make the other children feel bad, the ones who can’t do well in sports or don’t excel in school work. I understand that, but I still don’t know if what schools are doing now is the best solution.

Every child is different, there will be ones who excel in sports, and ones like me who strike out, more than I hit! Ones who excel in music, and some in art, or something else totally different. Its OK to not be good at something, and I am not sure if that message is getting across when we decide to totally eliminate acknowledgement of winning at a sport or another accomplishment.

I think of my sisters who are very talented in art and singing. I did not get those genes, but I never felt bad because of it. My sister got straight A’s. I  preferred using more letters of the alphabet. My parents were proud of my sisters, they hung their artwork on the wall and told them how much they loved their singing. I didn’t feel less valued because of them applauding my sisters. I enjoyed listening to my sisters sing as well.

Here is the key, my confidence in myself didn’t come from things I could do, it came from just plain liking who I was.

I didn’t care about others getting awards in school or winning trophies for sports. I am not saying that I never wished that I was good at sports or could make the honor roll, but I learned to just accept that I was not cut out to be an athlete. That  certain school subjects didn’t come as easily for me, and that I much preferred reading actual words with letters in them, not trying to find out what X and y were supposed to = and  what Y to the power of 10 was!

I realize that sadly not every child comes from a loving home. Not every child has caring parents  to instill self confidence in them.  So what is the solution when it comes to sporting events and other things at school?  How do we boost self confidence and not hurt it?  Yet at the same time preparing them for the real world, where there will be things that they are going to lose at, and people that will be smarter, etc.

You heard my thoughts, now I would love to hear yours!

32 thoughts on “What is the Answer?

  1. Very well presented. It would seem to me that stopping any form of recognition is an insult to the perceived qualities of the teaching profession. Aren’t they supposed to be preparing students for the “real world”? In the “real world”, extra effort tends to be rewarded as does clear perseverance to see an issue through to conclusion. The effort involved in working in general is rewarded by a regular income which, in turn, allows the reward of ones priorities (car? home? vacation?).
    Acknowledging that medals, recognition etc can create an “us and them” perspective which clearly should be avoided, then perhaps the education system needs to look for strengths, talents, skills etc in students that are perhaps not the norm.
    Because a child pianist is not disciplined enough to pursue higher levels of ability, does not mean that they should not be encouraged to pursue that interest. Everyday we hear music being played “by ear” i.e. they may not meet a professional standard of reading music per se, but they can create and remember extremely well.
    I was never a factor in school sports … just couldn’t see the point! I started running when I was in my mid/late 30’s and ran many road races … including a number of marathons.
    I have many interests which have been an amazing education for me, and all were developed in my after-school years! What was my motivation? Parental support and encouragement. They may not have always understood why I was interested in (whatever), but they were always supportive.
    There are many ways of teaching the principles of empathy and compassion, and removing the motivation to excel seems an odd approach. Perhaps role modelling by the educators would be a good start?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your thoughts! You are so right, educators should be a good role model!
      Love how you got involved in so much after your school years with the help of parental support! Running in marathons is definitely an achievement. One that I won’t achieve, but that’s fine. 🙂

      Like the example you gave about piano and playing by ear. To look for strengths that are not the norm. We all have strengths!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes we do all have strengths, it’s just that some may not be measurable against the “norm”. Our (society’s) expectations seem to be pre-determined by some magical charts of achievements which makes no allowance for abilities outside of such charts. I know a young lady who was a very compact build in her school years, who tried out for (and was accepted onto) the school basketball team. Sadly, she was never played because “our goal is to win, and she is not tall enough to be a useful player.” I think our schools are looking after themselves, and have totally lost sight of their responsibilities re the future of our respective countries!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Exactly!
          It’s sad that we as a society are so fixated on what’s considered the “norm”. We put everything in a box and for the students that don’t fit in the box it makes it very hard!
          I feel for the young lady for that happens to too many.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. So this makes me wonder if they will stop any type of awards or trophies for achievements in academics? No grades on tests? Or homework? Have they dispensed with GPA?

    No matter how much you attempt to sanitize life, humans have DNA that creates categories. We are equally predisposed to feel empathy and compassion.

    I believe you can be highly competitive and compassionate. The two are not mutually exclusive.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Personally I think we’re too over awarded of a society. All too often kids think they deserve recognition just for being them. It’s made far too many people self-absorbed, demanding and down right prat-tish. Sorry. I’m more in favor of how your parents passed along a sense of worth to you. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The purpose of playing a sport is to win a game. And what do you get for winning? A trophy. What the heck else is there? You don’t get to rape and pillage a city, like the Vikings of yore. You don’t get a bunch of captured slaves. Nor do you get to loot the local treasury. But at least you get a danged ol’ trophy. Take that away and you may as well take away the game.

    As for self-esteem, by its very definition, it must come from within the self. It can’t come from a trophy, or good grades, or someone’s praise. So I think you’ve done a good job figuring out self-esteem. And I hope my confirmation of this makes you feel better.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Maybe keep the awards, blue ribbons and trophies for runners, scholars, gymnasts, etc. . . . but add in awards, trophies and certificates for:

    Most Congenial
    Most Empathetic
    Kindest Kid in the Klass
    Most Compassionates
    Most Willing to Lend a Hand
    Most Supportive of Fellow Students
    Best Volunteer

    Liked by 1 person

  6. By dropping all awards, they punish the achievers. Just as they are punished now, for being recognized as on par with those that don’t really try.

    Without hurt feelings, how do you learn what it feels like to be treated badly. Disappointment in missing a goal, goes a long way in helping us strive to improve. Or at least it used to.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Such a thoughtful write up. My feelings run inline with yours. I don’t think there is anything wrong with competition. We do need to focus more on it being okay to not excel at everything. With that line of thought, instead of not competing (because isn’t that what this is going to lead to?) why not work better at focusing on the strengths that we do have. I went to a training once where an educated, studied man stood in front of other educators and persons hoping to learn more about strength building in children and adults. He suggested we stop making kids (or adults) work harder at things they do not excel in. Are they horrible at math? Okay, yes by all means teach them math, but is their strength in English? Or art? Or music? Build on their strengths. And all the while, teach them what character is. Teach them sportsmanship. You have wakened many thoughts here. These are just a few of mine. Thank you.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Perhaps if goals for each student are individualized, and if you achieve the goal, you are rewarded/recognized in some way. Early on the goals can be set so that most, if not all of the students are getting recognized, but then over time, the goals are made more difficult. Such an approach would enable everyone to be recognized for their accomplishment, and it wouldn’t be relative to other students’ accomplishments.

    Liked by 1 person

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