Sunday, June 7, 2015

“Stop giving meaningless praise and start giving meaningful action.” ― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

I was half-listening to the news this week, when I thought I heard something about a large number of valedictorians in a community in Ohio.  I thought the news report said over 200 valedictorians were named in just three schools.  I googled it, and it is true!  Here is the link to prove it! The news article says that in Dublin's three high schools, 2 out of every 10 students were named as a class valedictorian. In one high school, 44 were awarded the status; the second school had 82; the third had a whopping 96 students named to the highest honor of valedictorian, which, by the way, is defined as "a student, typically having the highest academic achievements of the class, who delivers the valedictory at a graduation ceremony." (Luckily, they did not all speak.)

I know that all school have so many wonderful high schools students, but really?  

I simply do not agree that everyone with a high achievement should be named as valedictorian. In no way is this "everybody wins" philosophy preparing students for the real world. Add more criteria to the the elimination and confirmation process, and may the best man/woman win.

When I heard this story and then followed up on it, I was reminded of my friends and their experiences with their small children through the years growing up. In T-ball, everyone got a trophy; same for softball and football and other kid sports.  Just for participating, everyone was a "winner and a champion."

At age 62, I know that is just not so.  In fact, I learned that lesson as a 12 year old, and I have never forgotten it.  I tried out for both majorette and cheerleader (although I never could do a split) in 7th grade.  I made it to the finals, and I was terribly disappointed when I was not chosen.  I did notice, even at that young age, that many of the girls who were chosen (not all) had ties to the school; that is, their parents were teachers or on the school board.  I mentioned this to my wise mother, who answered. "You just had your first real life lesson, Dede.  Sometimes you don't get chosen, even if you are the best, just because you don't have the right connections."  I never forgot that in the real world, that is sometimes the way things are. I pursued other interests and clubs, and I never auditioned for cheerleader ort majorette again, and I won many awards through high school, college, and in my career.  They were all awards that were EARNED, not just handed out because I happened to be in the right place at the right time. 

When we, as a society, give our young people trophies just for participation in an activity, I think we are setting them up for a really big disappointment later in life. When praise is offered repeatedly without being earned, it becomes empty and meaningless.

I think all of the 222 valedictorians should be recognized for their extraordinary achievements and exceedingly high GPAs, but to name them all valedictorians is like handing out trophies to every kid who participated in T-ball.  The honor becomes meaningless when spread so thin. 

As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions.

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