And the Award Goes To…

Winning Prize

One of the projects that actually won a significant award.

The kids and I are almost done with the second quarter of our home schooling year. With only four weeks to go, the holidays are coming up fast and a break is in sight.

At the end of every quarter, I take stock of the paperwork I have filed and decide what is truly worth keeping. With limited amounts of space, I can’t afford to keep every scrap of paper my kids write on.

The projects we completed for the LA County fair are among the stack of items to be organized for the current quarter.

While it might seem worthwhile to keep a vast majority of these projects (they really are cute), I can’t justify all of them. Several of the projects received only a third place and that presents a problem.

Now, some of you might be gasping and staring in shock at my confession, but hear me out.

The fair competitions work on a Danish form of judging, which is a whole different animal, in-and-of itself. Each project is judged against a standard (no problem there so far); cleanliness, adherence to rules, and creativity, being among some of the qualifications. Based on these standards, the judges give each project a score and then it is awarded a prize.

So what exactly is the problem? It is precisely this… Anyone who doesn’t get a first or a second, automatically gets a third place prize! Now, if my child gets a third place prize, does this mean that they actually warranted it or is this the “pity prize”; making third place all but meaningless?

I tend to think it is the latter. As an attempt to preserve these little people’s feelings and prevent parents from arguing with fair staff, the educational committee has decided to go the easy route; give everyone a prize!

While some might think this helps children’s self-confidence, I disagree. How is my child supposed to be feel good about third place, when all they had to do was turn it in to get that prize? What do children have to strive for, if we tell them simply turning in their work is good enough?

I don’t want a prize because someone felt sorry for me or because they needed to fill a quota of awards, I want it because I earned it! My children feel the same way.

I want my children to do their best and then be judged accurately. I want them to know that they have earned their place and then work harder if they didn’t get the position hoped for.

When they see that third place, they should strive for second. When they see second, they should strive for first. Giving them a meaningless award only teaches them not to be achievers; diminishing the hard work and ambition of the child who truly earned it.

When children are taught to earn their awards, they will have true confidence. They will know that the award has been earned and not simply granted. They will take pride in the hard work, time, and diligence it took to get it.

I wonder what life would be like if we banished awards for tenth place and instead stuck to an Olympic form of judging. You have three options; first, second, and third. If you didn’t make the cut, keep trying.

Needless to say, when projects get filed for this quarter, only exceptional work will be saved. The cute ones might be kept for personal memories, but the rest will be recycled.

How do you feel about a system of judging that hands out awards for fourth and fifth place?