Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Priorities out of balance

Kids today get such mixed messages about their responsibilities in life. On the one hand, we prepare them for standardized tests while they're practically still in the delivery room, snipping off the umbilical cord and handing them a Number 2 pencil. On the other hand, we protect them from reality tests in ever-increasing numbers:
Gone are the days when a kindergartner dropped a handful of party invites in the classroom cubbyholes of their closest buddies. Today, if anyone is excluded the invitations can't be handed out at school. The idea that protecting kids from rejection is crucial to safeguarding their self-esteem has gained momentum in recent years.

Take Valentine's Day: At some schools, a second-grader can't offer paper valentines or heart-shaped candies to a short list of pals and secret crushes anymore. They give cards to everyone or no one at all. Or sports: In many towns, scorekeeping no longer happens at soccer or softball games played by kids under 8 or 9. Win or lose, every player in the league gets a trophy at the season's end.

As with many child-rearing trends, some parents and educators see wisdom where others spot foolishness. Many see a mixture of both.
Can you imagine how confused a child would be if he got the importance of high-stakes tests drilled into him in school all day, then went to his softball game and got a trophy for scoring no runs? High stakes testing pressure may have reached detrimental levels in some schools, but the removal of all stakes in sports and popularities contests could have as far-reaching and negative an effect.

(Cross-posted at
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