By Bill Ward
---- — Nothing is better for a grand parent than their grand children doing well. And this month was a great one for this grandfather. I noticed that they had the high school and middle school honor roll students in the paper. Of course as a grand parent I had to check out and see how the grand kids were doing. Alison, a junior in high school, was on the honor roll for that school. Ethan, a freshman, was on his honor roll as well. Aaron, a seventh grader, also made the honor roll in his school. I have not heard but bet that the Ward clan in Crawfordsville are right up there too. That along with my eldest grand son Brennan graduating this May from Hanover and was recently accepted by the law school at Valparaiso. All in all, a very satisfying January 2014 for my family anyway.
I did however notice that a rather large number of students made the high school honor list. That made me wonder a little just what the reason is. Is it that we have many outstanding students? Or is it the requirements are too lenient? Or is it the curriculum is not set as high as it should be. And no doubt my ideas of ability and of numbers are not what it is for those who are educators. I like to believe it is the ability of the students and teachers but there is always that doubt, at least in the minds of us older folks.
This brought to mind once again my youth when we played for fun not for trophy or ribbon awards. Other than school events, I honestly do not remember any time a trophy or something was given to a participant even if they did a good job of it. If we played baseball in a league possibly only the best would get any sort of award for their playing. Today, all one has to do is be there and you get a trophy or something just like all the rest of those on the team. If you are outstanding you may also receive a larger trophy to show your prowess.
In my younger days, we played but basically for fun not awards. I knew if there were awards to be given I was in no way going to get one. And it did not bother me at all. Basically, I looked at it as everyone can’t be outstanding and I knew I wasn’t and wouldn’t but liked to play so I was never concerned about winning anything, other than the game I was in at the time. If one did receive a ribbon or trophy it was because there were really good and I mean really. It meant something to the winner as well as to those of us who were far from being recognized. And you know what, I don’t believe any of my friends or myself were harmed by it.
Today it seems to me that we do every thing we can to make our children and grand children get something, anything just so they are recognized. Or is it we as parents or grand parents want the recognition? I would feel as it the trophy I and everyone else got was a nothing. Even though I knew I would probably never get a trophy, there was always that possibility that I could and would. And if I had I assure you to me it would mean much more than if everyone got an award. We were happy just to be able to play a game and a trophy or anything was not even thought of, at least in my crowd.
In my school years in Indiana and California, things were the same. I will admit that in my youth a few got a lot, but they earned it and deserved it not given but earned. Those who were awarded something appreciated it and so did those of us who did not. We were as happy for the one winning the award as if we had won it ourselves. We didn’t have anything tangible to show for our efforts, but we did understand not everyone could, would or should get an award. And it did not bother us at all.
Today, I think those who make and sell trophies are the instigators of the everyone wins syndrome. In life as in sports not everyone wins, not everyone is a millionaire, not everyone can play professional baseball or football. Not everyone can win in life so why make children believe they can even if in their heart of hearts they know no way are they as good as others. For that matter, what if you are one of the good ones? Does it mean much to you when you receive a trophy and the other guy who was really bad and probably made few games and or practices got one too? Life is hard and our children should learn early on not everyone can or will be a winner.
I do believe it is at times realistic to give certificates to those players who show up and do the job, but not a trophy. If someone does something outstanding great show them that you appreciate what they did and do so in an acceptable way. I feel that our children today are coddled way more than necessary and because of that they will have a difficult time in later life dealing with events. Not everyone is outstanding and in early life is a much better time to understand that than when you are an adult.
I suspect some of you are thinking I am nuts, possibly. But I know from my life and from my youth what I learned as a youngster stood me in good stead in my adult life. Sure I made mistakes, we all do, but I learned from them and continued on with life. Another thing we slighting our children on is not allowing them to make those mistakes in their youth so they will be better able to cope with those life will throw at them. I think recognition is great, but gee whiz, let it be earned. And I figure that my grandparents said basically the same thing about my parents generation, my parents about mine so guess my children will do the same for their children, just a family thing.