I’m getting old. I know it. I’m becoming Mama. I watch young adults and just shake my head asking what the world is coming to … just like I’m sure generations before me have done. Before you know it, I’ll be in a rocker on the porch yelling at kids to get off the lawn. I’m appalled at how many of them dress, at the music they listen to and at their general lack of work ethic. I’m not talking across the board here. There are a great many really terrific young adults making a difference in the world. However, I watch other young adults put in minimum effort and expect to be rewarded.
These kids have a First World Attitude Problem.
Many of them have never faced down homelessness, starvation, serious disease, war, or profound hardship. They went to school during a time when little was demanded of them; so, that’s what they gave – little. They grew up with No Child Left Behind; so, deadlines didn’t apply and the grading curve was generous. They got gold stars for mediocre work. I became aware of this situation in our education system during a parent / teacher conference when my son was in high school. As intelligent as he is, he was a less than motivated student who rarely completed his assignments on time. When one of his teachers complained about this to me, my response was simple: Fail him.
She was stunned and actually asked me to repeat myself. I did and assured her that if she failed him once, she’d likely never have to do so again. She finally admitted that she couldn’t. No Child Left Behind. So, there he was, doing less than he should have done, but still being rewarded by passing the class. This happened for too many students. That’s such an injustice not only to the students who actually work hard, but also to the students who are being passed along. For all those meaningless gold stars, they ended up with an unrealistic set of life expectations.
Gold Stars once meant something. They were instituted during World War I. Families with sons serving in the military were given flags to fly. On the flags was a blue star for every serving son. When a son was killed, his blue star was replaced by a gold one. The family earned a gold star by giving the life of their child. Most parents would agree that they’d rather earn it by giving their own lives rather than their child’s life. But that’s what a gold star really means – ultimate sacrifice.
But the concept filtered through society and ended up in the classroom where it meant that Little Johnny or Suzie didn’t talk in class or that their penmanship was neat or that they turned in a good paper. In today’s world, it can mean that they at least showed up where it once meant that they literally gave everything they had. I just don’t see that from most of the young people I know. They have grown up knowing that everyone gets a trophy whether they win or not. They know that they can be rewarded for a phoned-in performance. That’s so unfair to them! They don’t get to stretch and grow if no one requires more from them. Most of them will never realize their potential if they don’t have to. What a waste!
By coddling our children and “protecting their self-esteem,” we’ve given them a sense of self-worth that even they know is worthless. In seeking to protect them from the bumps and bruises of life, we’ve deprived them of the joy of having worked hard to earn something.
We’ve given them too many Fool’s Gold Stars.