Before my husband and I came to our senses, Squints attended a fancy-pants private school. There were several perks to this school: amazing trips that we couldn’t afford to go on even if we’d wanted to; enrichment programs; oh, and the art program in which the students’ artwork would be digitized and sent electronically to a company in California.
This company would continually jam my inbox with email about upcoming specials: I could buy all manner of crap…mugs, tee shirts, placemats, mouse pads, hell, I could probably even get underwear, if I wanted to… imprinted with my son’s original artwork. You know, before he becomes world-famous.
Despite the fact that we’ve left the school, I continue to get these emails. And, being a bad mother, I delete the messages as soon as they hit my inbox. If I want Squints’ original artwork, I’ll just head upstairs and grab a drawing from under his bed.
The other day, I received a final email from the company: To wrap up the end of the school year, the message said, I really ought to buy a plaque displaying Squints’ best work to commemorate his first success as a published artist.
You know, published on the internet.
By this company.
What am I, an idiot?
In each of my children’s bedrooms, there are rows of cheap plastic statues, many of them indicative of nothing but participation in a season of soccer, baseball, or softball.
Every year, students who absolutely should not be passed on to the next grade are promoted. We could blame that on No Child Left Behind, but it’s been going on much longer than that.
In eighth grade, my husband, who doesn’t have a creative bone in his body, won his school’s Art Prize because he came in second place in the GPA award. His special talent? Drawing NFL logos.
And remember those categories from your senior yearbook? Most likely to succeed? Cutest couple? As a bit of a sloth myself, I was expected to get class clown.
I missed it by one vote.
I recovered from the disappointment and somehow managed to get on with my life. But today, thanks to No One Left Disappointed, everyone gets a prize: My daughters’ school just wrapped up the work on the final edition of the newspaper. Every single child graduating from that school will be listed in the newspaper as best something or other.
All of these hollow rewards give our kids the message that there’s no point in doing anything really well, no point in even making an effort, because they’ll get a prize anyway. We have become a nation of sloths, a nation that rewards its citizens for doing nothing. We wring our hands and look at our test scores and say, oh what’s to be done and then we hand a trophy to a little girl who’s learned to tie her shoes.
When we offer twenty bucks for scoring a goal or an ice cream sundae for a home run, we teach our children to pursue excellence not to achieve excellence but for some external reward.
Children need to feel their own success. Children need to feel their own failures. When they have truly succeeded they will know it. They will have no need of plastic trophies upon their shelves; they will have no need for an ice cream sundae or a crappy plaque.
But for now, we remain a nation of sloths.
Hey, do we get a trophy for that?
3/27/12 Update: This post was also linked to: Mama wants this.
This is one of my favorites because it generated a lot of discussion and because, having taught for several years, I saw it happening every day.
Labels: Community, Consumption, Culture, Daughters, Raising Children, Sloth, Sons