A few years back I wanted to compete in a triathlon. There was only one problem. I was a 260 lbs powerlifter and swam like a stone.
I walked until I could jog, and jogged until I could run. I bought a cheap bike until I could increase the mileage and then I bought a less cheap bike.
I taught myself to swim, but nearly drown in my first race under the white capped waves. I came out of the water number 2498 out of 2500 athletes, but I came out of the water! I finished that race after a bike and run.
The next year was dedicated to really learning to swim. Armed with a better skill set, my goal was to take the podium.
I swam, I biked and I ran for as long and as fast as I could. Into the second half of the run, my mind started to “talk.” It said, “You’ve given a special effort. You deserve a break.”
With a quarter mile to the finish line, I walked about a hundred yards before striding to the finish. I pushed hard, right? I deserved a medal, right?
Because I walked only one hundred yards, I missed the podium by 3 seconds.
Know what I got? Nothing.
This week I read about a high school that wouldn’t allow National Honor Society students to wear their satin white stole. Parents were told it excluded the other students.
Another high school vanished the ranks of valedictorian and salutatorian. Again, the school was concerned the other students would feel less special.
I thought we’d learned our lessons post-Dr. Spock (not star trek) era and the “everyone deserves a trophy” phase of degenerating our culture. How did we disintegrate from WWII’s Greatest Generation to now ranking below some second and third world countries?
What message are we sending to those who made sacrifices and stayed the curriculum’s course despite the turbulent times associated with high school angst?
“Hey kid, you know the drugs, alcohol and sex you avoided so you could bolster your scholarship potential at a top college because your blue-collar hard working parents can’t afford it? Well, that was a waste of 4 years because you’re no more accomplished than the others who can’t wait to get out of this place to set the world on fire. No seriously, actually set the world on fire.”
The truth is, we’re not all special at all things. And, we do not deserve a ribbon for just showing up. We’re sending our kids off into a world vastly different than the rainbow sprinkled snow globe they’re raised in. Come to think of it, we’re not sending them off at all – they’re now living at home well into their thirties.
This new culture of entitled exceptionalism (I’m generalizing because there are some incredible people out there) has no work ethic and less loyalty. Jumping from job to job because their boss corrected them or a peer hurt their feelings. Or, better yet, just exiting the honest workforce altogether. It also manifest itself to family and social relationships as well.
I understand the irony of what I’m about to say. I have, through hard work, earned a bachelor, master’s and doctoral degrees. I’m currently working on my second Phd in ministry. I say worked, because I’m not the smartest guy, just the most determined. I say earned because I never received one penny of government aid or grants. I worked full time through college, so I was classified as non-qualified.
The lie is that college is where special people go to feel more special about being special. Truth is – not everyone belongs in college. Having nothing to do with IQ (I’m proof of that), but with ability. There are more unemployed liberal arts majors than there are people who labor at a trade or attended a vo-tech college to learn a specialty. But, because everyone is special and deserves a ribbon, then they must attend college because that’s where special people go. Right?
I’m a big Mike Rowe fan, and agree that the sacred canopy veiling higher education is a disservice to working America. But, America is no longer about working. Just look at the fact that less than 50% of Americans pay income tax. When did the other 50% become so especially entitled that work is beneath them?
Was it because they didn’t actually have to round the bases to get an honorary homerun in little league, or was it the talent show that gave more trophies than participants, or maybe the football league that quit keeping score so no one had to experience the pain of losing?
Or maybe it’s my generation that wanted their kids to have more by doing less that created skewed clones who took the notion of one-upping and ran with it.
I can’t say for sure, but I do know that it’s shameful to disrespect those high school students who worked their juvenile butts off despite the crush of peer pressure and puberty to top their classes.
This week’s post really ran on longer than that triathlon race, but it’s one thing for adults to make stupid decisions like walking before the finish line. It’s intolerable when the supposedly “learned” products of higher education make derisive decisions tarnishing the honest efforts of our young citizens.
What I am positive about though, is that those students who really are special understand achievement is more than a satin stole or a high school GPA. That despite the mindless efforts to create something unique out of homogeneity, that the cream really does rise to the top.
Class of 2019, we salute you.
What Do You Think
Why don’t we celebrate exceptional achievement?
Are we better off giving everyone a trophy for trying?
Should schools cater to students who don’t try just to avoid hurting their feelings?
What should we be doing differently?
Any other thoughts about this?
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