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Everyone’s a Winner Baby… Certificates, Trophies, Awards…

April 26, 2014

So we  live in a world where everyone is equal. No one loses.  No one wins. No one is ‘out’. Thats fair right?

If you’re not in the mood for  ‘tongue in cheek’ post – read no further as its a twist between my opinion and the twisted reality. It’s controversial I think (as research shows).


We chastise certificates, awards, even praise…because these hurt the kids. Research tells us that. Of course we all believe the research and we rarely dig deeper into our own wonderings  and investigations and heaven forbid have confidence in our own experience to make our own judgements. I guess ‘we’ are not qualified enough to have a valid opinion because research shows…..  I love research and Im not disputing it. See here and here. And here.  Love it. But do we really damage kids? Really? Wow, times have changed. I know that Im currently looking at getting lawyered up to sue those teachers, Cub Scout Leaders, Swim Club Managers (and Figure Skating managers) who dared to give me a certificate, badge  or praise..and the odd trophy..not many of those but hey Im cool with that.. dare them! (Okay..Yes.. I took 5 years of figure skating, I was the one of the best skaters in Junior A League so there..). I cant imagine the settlement I might get from the courts had I won the Stanley Cup (Hockey) or Super Bowl (NFL) trophies ..yes the real axis of evil. Some punishment for working my butt off.  Yes, research as told us so that these are not good. No intrinsic motivation there. Competition is bad. Are we REALLY dangling a carrot with acknowledgement?

Now I know Ive disturbed  you…Ive opened up a hornets nest.

Dealing with defeat is as much as a skill as dealing with victory and being humble.It’s a human condition. So why do we protect our kids from failure? Or disappointment? Or elation for that matter? We cant all be ‘first’. Or all get a certificate. Ok so there are pundits that say Rewards are Punishments. As educators we seek intrinsic motivation. Kids do things because they want to. So reward hurts kids? The research is there against it yet our society rebels against it. Competition is a human element. It happens and we know it it. Im sure the kids do not make such a big deal of this, unlike us over thinking overbearing adults. We over think stuff. Its what we do.

faSeriously, I can see the point of those who believe that ‘rewards punish’. I dont believe in saying’ If you do X you will get Y’. Thats wrong. Its short term. However I do believe that praise and acknowledgement  is motivating (not every second of the day though).  Humans appreciate it. Do things like certificates influence my behaviour?  Not sure. I dont think my grade 1 kids do things to ‘get’ a certificate. But why not ask the kids?  I DO know humans respond to reward, we dont work for free and money is a reward. Not intrinsic motivation you say…I see the pundits

I believe we need to help kids deal with failure. Mistakes. Of NOT winning. Of NOT getting a certificate. Life is full of downloadscdisappointments. We are not equal. That’s life right? Are we helping kids deal with it? Or just insulating them from what is yet to come?

Perhaps ask your own kids that and find out. Ive asked medmine. Bring on the acknowledgement. Thats their voice, not mine.

Have I missed the point of it all?

Please comment and let me know!





So Ill leave you with this song by Hot Chocolate…

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Biff Tannen permalink
    April 28, 2014 1:52 am

    It’s pretty obvious to me that anyone pushing the ‘everyone is equal’ ‘no certificates/no rewards’ agenda is a die-hard, card carrying communist!

  2. June 4, 2014 3:53 am

    Gosh, Billy Crystal is playing a GRANDPA?! I thought he was the father (ugly one at that). Now, I feel old!

    I try to teach my own children to not care too much what others think. Take the praise and the criticism with a grain of salt. It’s better to “know thyself” and to err on the side of humility when in doubt. I can do that as a parent. I don’t think I could do that as a teacher, though. Humility isn’t highly valued.

    Kids nowadays do lack coping mechanisms when encountering failure. That’s what I’ve read in the research. I think it’s because they’ve been insulated from having to face defeat and humility. We’ve lost the ability to apologize and that’s a big part of it.

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