June 03, 2009

Rewarding Excellence? I Think Not

Sixth Grade Graduation
Today I attended my first sixth grade graduation. No, that doesn't mean I'll be heading off to middle school in the Fall... it just means that I've never attended such an event before for my three children (they're currently 32, 30 and 13).

I am not familiar with the commemoration of the passing of sixth grade with diplomas, a slideshow, awards and cake and lemonade. My newest granddaughter, Des, was among the 75 graduates at her elementary school. (Des is one of the newest, AND the oldest, of my six grandchildren. I married her grandfather in October...eww, that makes me sound old, being married to a grandfather!). But then I think about my boy, he just finished seventh grade last week, so then I feel young and old at the same time...such ambivalence!

I am also ambivalent about this graduation business. Since it is law in all 50 states of this great country to keep your children in school until 16...or 17...0r 18, depending on the state, EVERY child will, at some point, God willing, graduate from sixth grade. (Disclaimer: I do not know the particulars involved if homeschooling your loved ones). I guess it just seems weird to me to celebrate something that is more than likely going to happen anyway.

I know we want to nurture our children, to make them feel good about themselves - but I thought that REAL accomplishments should be celebrated and cherished. Things like academic excellence, athletic prowess, acts of courage, you know what I'm talkin' 'bout. Nowadays,(sounding old again), there are classrooms in elementary schools who give an award of some kind to EACH AND EVERY CHILD ("most improved", "best reader", "best class helper", "best bean farter" (ok, I made that one up).

It is possible, in 15 years of education, that your child could have graduation ceremonies for preschool, pre-K, Kindergarten, sixth grade, middle school, and high school. And parents have parties, and hand out bouquets and balloons of congratulations. We hand out trophies to all the participants of sports teams, no matter what the final win/loss column says; all of our children are "winners". I fear that all of these 'warm fuzzies' set our children up for the constant need for approval, and the desire for rewards for just showing up.

These kids think that every task completed results in some reward...we then start paying them for breathing in and out, all day, poor dears!

Wait until they get into college (though I've heard that the 'helicopter parents' are causing that to be dumbed down, too), or join the job market. I'm talkin' rude awakening here.


  1. I need constant recognition and I didn't win a trophy ever year. The honor roll was my trophy. You know they don't have that at work? It's rough!

  2. My husband and I have said that for years. Also, at our son's elementary school, they didn't have honor roll - because it would hurt the feelings of the kids who didn't make it. Didn't get that one either.


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