Do you believe children should receive a trophy just for showing up? I cannot tell you how many medals, trophies, and ribbons adorn my home; but how many of those awards were deserved? Is it really worth celebrating 10th place or giving an Honorable Mention to everyone who shows up?
Two weeks ago, my son, Evan, attended the district-wide science fair. He had an amazing project about Roller Coasters. He worked for weeks with his father discussing the physics behind roller coasters. Together, they built a roller coaster model to run marbles through while Evan learned how to calculate different mathematical formulas.
At the award ceremony, his name was called for “Honorable Mention.” I could see the excitement in his face as he went up to get his gold ribbon. After he sat down, I could see his mind starting to figure things out. There were countless 3rd Place, 2nd Place, and 1st Place awards given out. By the time the award ceremony was over, everyone was either holding a gold “Honorable Mention” or a medal with a slip of paper allowing them to go on to the County Science Fair. The smile was no longer there. He was not proud of himself anymore.
As we left the ceremony, he looked at me and demanded an honest answer to his question. “Did everyone get an award?”
With my answer, his gold ribbon turned into a consolation prize. It didn’t mean anything to him. Just looking at his ribbon made him feel like it should have said, “Sorry, better luck next time” instead of “Honorable Mention.”
I understand that they want to get the kids excited about being in the science fair, but what happened to having one winner in each grouping – 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place? Why does each kid need to walk out of the science fair with a ribbon?
Maybe most kids don’t look too much into it. They proudly display their ribbon and feel a sense of pride.
I explained to Evan that the ribbon was to honor his hard work. He deserved recognition of a job well done. None of that worked. In his mind, all the ribbon represented was that he showed up that day, and he was right.
After looking at the judges’ comments, I saw that he became a little nervous under pressure. He stumbled a bit on his words and forgot the formulas. He’s ten. It happens.
Not every kid needs an trophy to say they played soccer, showed up for a dance competition, or ran a race. Not everyone who goes to the Olympics receives a medal. Doesn’t that 1st Place award mean more when only one person wins?
My son is an amazing young man and he doesn’t need a ribbon to prove it.