Today’s post was supposed to be a revamping of a Dr. Seuss classic. I’ve got the intro written, but when I sat down for a rewrite, I just wasn’t feeling it. Since I believe any parody worth doing is worth doing well, I’m going to let it stew for awhile and see if I can get it right. Instead, I thought I’d share some personal observations from an awards ceremony I attended at my daughter’s school today.
The good news is that we have a high level of parent involvement and participation at the elementary school my daughter attends. The bad news is that all that parent involvement and participation makes it virtually impossible to find a good parking spot for any school event unless you get there at least 30 minutes ahead of time. I was fortunate to arrive early enough to find a spot to parallel park among the other cars using the carpool lane as a makeshift parking lot. Parents arriving just moments after me were forced to park illegally in the field across from the school. Did I mention that this awards ceremony was ONLY for the 4th grade class? (Yeah, yeah. I know–I have no reason to gripe about parents showing up to support their kids. But hey, it was hot outside. And I was in a dress. You feel sorry for me already, don’t you?)
But I’m not here to complain about the school’s inadequate parking.
I’m here to complain about our inadequate expectations for our children.
When I was in elementary school, I made all A’s and B’s because that’s what was expected of me and because if I brought home a report card with a C, I was expected to come home from school each day and study whatever subject (let’s call it “math”) I had earned that C in until I brought it back up to an A or B. There was no such thing as “A and B honor roll” and I didn’t get a certificate of achievement at the end of the year. There were always kids who struggled in school; kids who failed a grade or two. Heck, I graduated high school with a guy who was just shy of his twenty-first birthday, but when he walked across that stage and received his diploma, he had earned it.
Nowadays we’re so concerned about “no child left behind” that administrators have teachers teaching our kids how to pass standardized tests, not how to think for themselves. Failing kids means loss of federal funding, so educators do everything they can to make sure kids don’t fail those tests. Oftentimes memorization and rote thinking takes the place of the experience of learning how to learn, comprehend and retain knowledge. How else could you possibly explain how a person could graduate high school without knowing how to read?
What I’m about to say may be shocking and unacceptable to some, but here goes:
We need to allow our children to fail.
In school, in sports, in relationships, in life. Allow them small failures when they’re young and they will be equipped to handle and even avoid large failures when they’re older. Parents and educators need to stop saving them all the time, telling them, “It’s okay this time, but don’t do it again.” Because you know what? If you do that, it’s NOT okay and they WILL do it again. We’re indoctrinating an entire generation of dependence and entitlement, evidenced by an attitude that everything good in their lives is because they deserve it and everything bad is someone else’s fault. (I blame Shel Silverstein and The Giving Tree for much of this, but that’s a whole other rant.)
Today I attended a 4th grade awards ceremony in my daughter’s classroom. Every class in every grade level has one. Each child stands up and shakes the teacher’s hands while three awards are announced. Most kids have more, but only three of their choosing are allowed to be announced. Why? Because three is the minimum number any child can receive. Essentially, if the child has a pulse, is registered at the school and shows up for class they get an award. Which means my daughter’s classmate who has never made less than a 98 on anything he’s ever turned in, who reads at a high school level and is being tested to skip the 5th grade is equally recognized with the kid who rarely turns in his work and is a constant disruption in class. The star athlete, the exceptional artist, the accomplished musician and even the class clown don’t have their exceptional abilities recognized above anyone else for fear of damaging anyone’s precious self-esteem.
When everyone and everything is exceptional, no one or nothing really is.