To achieve something used to mean something when did that change? We used to have winners in school sports days now we have runners or completers. Does this not take the shine off the kid who wins? And if it is so important to reflect participation what of the academic subjects? Little johnny may be the best athlete in the school but what if he is not academic. Well you have watered down the praise for his sporting prowess so do you have to give him a completion certificate for his examinations? Life is hard and there seems to be a growing apathy towards it which we must resist.
I saw, note I didn’t watch, a game show on the TV last night. The partner of the contestant observed ‘so many people want to sit there but you have achieved it’. I don’t want to make anyone feel bad here but how did she ‘achieve’ this success. Sure she applied, probably online, and was selected but what was the achievement? So often in life we seem to attach merit to that which has none. I have blogged before on the madness of self applause. We seem to applaud ourselves out of embarrassment at the celebration of such inconsequential things. All of this detracts from those that truly achieve and this, for me, is wrong.
There is nothing more sad to see than second generation lack of ambition, but it is becoming more and more prevalent. Little johnny (when he is not winning races) may live with feckless parents in the new virtual poverty* but this should drive him to better himself. Why is this not happening, what is making him look around and think ‘I won’t amount to more than this?’. I think a big part is the culture of praising non achievement. Kids are rewarded for not being expelled, for turning up at sports day and for getting up in the morning. By the time little johnny is home from school he can barely walk for the accolades and awards that he carries. His shoulders are heavy with the weight of praise heaped upon them.
After he gets home dad will congratulate mum on getting pregnant, for scamming the satellite provider and ducking the doorstep loan collector. Dad is not forgotten, the way he avoided the store detective when ‘shopping’ was truly skilled. The performance on the phone to avoid the job centre was deserving of an Oscar. Little johnny is achieving so much why would he venture out and strive for more? There is barely space in his trophy cabinet, crammed with school attendance, best detention and great teeth growing awards. We have given him no drive, taken away his ambition.
Children thrive on challenges, yes we need to support them but not like this. We want our children to be hungry for success, they should want to do more than us, achieve more. By rewarding the mundane we, by corollary, stifle ambition. Next time your child comes home and says “I was good at school all day and got a gold star” remember your own childhood. I suggest you bite the sticker and observe ‘not real gold so that won’t pay bills’. Then look them squarely in the eye and remind them the ‘reward’ for not ‘achieving’ this will be a thick ear. That should guarantee successful heirs.
* virtual poverty : the new measure of poverty, the breadline has been moved to just above the Sky box and the shopping basket of essentials has to include alcohol, tobacco and take away