Americans are a bit schizophrenic about their schools. They prioritize oddly, spending huge sums on athletics and supporting them in every way, while all but ignoring academics. This normally means lavishing money and attention on football and on the children that play the game.
But what of the self-esteem of the kids that will never be able to play on the varsity football team? What about it? This is football we’re talking about. Only the biggest, fastest, most aggressive and best need apply.
But what about the varsity football players that will never be quarterback? What about them? What about their feelings? This is football we’re talking about. Only the smartest and best need apply. Winning is all that matters!
But what about the kids that will never be voted most valuable player? What about them? This is football, where we celebrate the best.
But what about all the girls that will never play varsity football? What about their self-esteem? What are you talking about?! Girls playing football?! This is football we’re talking about!
Simultaneously, there is a virulent movement to do away with academic competition of any kind. To avoid the sports reality that some people will always be bigger, faster, stronger and more capable than others, many wish to spare kids the horrors of dealing with reality. Let’s deny that some people are simply smarter than others. Let’s make everyone a winner! The virus, according to Fox News, has most recently infected a Kentucky school district:
A public school district near Louisville, Kentucky has come down with a bad case of what I call ‘Participation Trophy Syndrome’ – or PTS.
The Greater Clark County School Board in Jeffersonville, Indiana, is considering a plan to eliminate the valedictorian system because it creates ‘unhealthy competition,’ according to Supt. Andrew Melin.
Unhealthy competition? Is he serious?
Did a kid suffer a concussion while trying to parse a participle?
‘When students are competing for the Val [valedictorian] and the Sal [salutatorian], they’re trying to find ways to maneuver through the system to try and get the best grades they can possibly get, as opposed to taking the course work that’s truly in their own best interest,’ Supt. Melin told television station WHAS. [skip]
So instead of honoring the best and the second-best – the school is considering a plan to honor more kids.
‘We’ve got all these great students that work very hard, and become very distinguished in their academic career and we want to be able to recognize more of those students at the end of a given year,’ he told the television station.
There is no question that academically oriented kids keep track of their grades and work hard to excel, however, schools understand this, and if they’re doing their jobs properly, reward such kids for taking more demanding classes. For example, schools commonly award extra academic credit for students that take advanced placement classes. So a student earning an A in a regular core English class would earn less academic credit—applied toward academic honors at graduation—then a student earning an A in an AP English class. Other common factors are commonly school and community service, college scholarships earned, various other honors, and accomplishments in academic contests with other schools.
Properly done, there is no reason any school should end up with ten or so valedictorians, kids with precisely the same academic scores at the ends of the senior years. And if there is such a problem, there should be a means of breaking a tie in policy, a means whereby it is the academic abilities of the involved students that decide the matter.
The problem is deeper than this, unfortunately, and exists on every level of education. At the local level, some argue that academic competition is harmful, and no one must ever feel less smart than anyone else. Therefore, it is necessary to do away with Advanced Placement classes because the kids not up to those classes will feel their self-esteem bruised.
In so-called higher education, the need to fund bloated administrations with multiple layers of diversity, gender, race and sex bureaucracies, has opened the admissions gates, and kids fundamentally intellectually unprepared, indeed, incapable of doing actual college level work, are now sought after.
This social engineering has been enabled by the Federal Government’s takeover of the student loan industry which loans to virtually anyone, understanding all too well that most will not be able to obtain a college degree, and will drop out with enormous college debt and no skills or credentials that make paying that debt possible.
Intelligence matters, particularly in college. College teachers and administrators know this, but they need the bodies and their loan proceeds, so they install remedial high schools on college campuses and force intellectually incapable students to take those courses, at full college credit tuition, and for no college credit, adding years to the degree course of those few that eventually graduate. What used to be a four-year course of study now takes many six years, and the colleges continue to rake in the bucks and the social justice bureaucracies continue to expand while teaching staffs continue to dwindle in numbers.
We do not for a moment resist the idea that some people are bigger, faster, stronger and better at a variety of sports than others. We accept it and celebrate it as a fundamental fact of humanity. We glorify overdeveloped bodies propelling underdeveloped minds and find ourselves outraged when high school and college sports figures behave like the low-impulse control, spoiled brats so many are.
Yet we fiercely resist the idea that there must be advanced classes and experiences for the brilliant, that there are just some people smarter, a lot smarter, than most.
Fine. Do away with the valedictorians. Do away with the advanced placement classes, with debate and other forms of academic competition. So long as they pass with at least 70%, give everyone a participation diploma. They can slide right into college where they can do another year or two of remedial high school while paying full college tuition for no credit. But that’s equality, isn’t it? That’s true diversity and brotherhood?
But who is going to design the next generation of iPhones? Who is going to engineer the new cars? The roads and bridges and buildings? Who will be the new generation of musical virtuosos? Who will discover the new drugs, and who will pioneer new surgeries? And who will design the new high school stadiums? Anybody can design a $70 million dollar stadium, can’t they?
Weren’t the people that made the first atomic bomb just like everyone else? Why do we call them “rocket scientists” anyway? Can’t anybody do that
In a sense, it’s a cultural thing. We’re fast becoming a society ruled by feelings rather than reality. If it feels right, if it makes us feel morally superior, it is right, and we’ll invent the language, policies, procedures, and laws to enshrine it. And when they fail, spectacularly, we’ll deny that reality and double down on that failure, because it feels right.
Honor more kids; honor no kids. It’s all about feelings. But feelings don’t build stadiums or repair plumbing. What are we going to do, and when?