I have two kids, one elementary school age and one middle school age. They have been going to school and involved in school activities for nearly a decade. When they started school, here in the early 21st century, I was under the impression that very soon our home would be bellybutton deep in participation trophies.

According to nearly every morning radio show, babyboomer's Facebook, cable news report and family gathering rant; all kids today are showered with praise in the form of participation trophies. When my children started taking their first steps into the world I was expecting that I'd have to build floor to ceiling shelves in the basement, garage and attic to hold the avalanche of participation trophies that would be coming home.

Yet, here we are with my oldest on the cusp of high school and nary a trophy is collecting dust our house. We don't even have any ribbons. Not one banner proclaiming "Nice Try!" or "Good Effort!" Not onec have my children been fawned over simply for showing up.

Sure my kids have brought home awards and accolades. But, they have all been in relation to things they've achieved. We've also received several notices of discipline and behavior issues, because they are children and are learning. Thankfully we've been lucky so far in that the positive school notes have outweighed the negative. But really, the way people talk I was fully prepared to be unpacking backpacks stuffed with unearned trinkets of praise everyday.

Several times in their education careers, the kids have competed in various school competitions. They have won and lost and have never been awarded anything unearned. One big difference from when I was their age, in the late 1980's, is that they are not ridiculed for not winning. That is very different from when I was a kid. More often than not, I've seen teachers and such taking the time to explain why a kid didn't win, and what they could do better next time.

When I was in their place we'd just be told we were losers. If we were lucky that admonishment would be followed up with an explanation based on our last name, family's income, ethnic background or some long held personal vendetta against an adult in our family. Maybe that was just small town living. There is clearly an effort to create a more positive learning environment today. Compared to my experience which seemed to be centered around lifting up a few and ignoring the rest.

I suppose that I could be missing something, or maybe we just don't run in participation trophy circles. But, comparing my kids school experiences with my own, I would choose being a kid today over the morass of indifference I had to battle through from first to 11th grade. Kindergarten was OK, and 12 grade was tolerable because I could see the end.

I'll still keep an eye out for those evil participation trophies, though. Judging by the way people talk about them they might be the greatest threat to the youth of our nation since comic books and Atari. Or it could just be that some adults today are mad they can't figure out math and computers.


 

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