Right now, your child's bedroom closet could be full of ticking time bombs. These seemingly harmless items may be branded with phrases like "Honorable Mention" or "Certified Lil' Slugger," but, in reality, they spell one thing: trouble.
Dr. Merv Tupp, a sociologist at The Institute for American Gumption, agrees. "Right now, I'm looking at one of the greatest crises to face America--and I watched the entire run of The Chevy Chase Show. Sorry, I know it's dated, but that's a little joke I like to tell."
The crisis Dr. Tupp speaks of is one that's become commonplace, almost ubiquitous, in American schools and children's extracurricular activities: the participation award. Once thought to be completely harmless, the disastrous effects of these undeserved prizes can be seen in the latest generation of adults, know to many as "Millennials." Coddled and pampered throughout their childhoods and young adult lives, this group can largely be blamed for America lagging behind other first-world economies. With their desire for leisure time, benefits, and enjoyment, there clearly has never been a generation so fixated on their own desires--and the effects can be more harmful than you think.
"We have some cases," says Dr. Tupp, "Where we can clearly trace the acquisition of a participation award with significant disasters. Take the Boston Marathon Bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, for instance. In 2002, at age nine, he got to attend a free pizza party for students who missed less than three days during the school year. And what happened when he was rewarded just for showing up? A clear god complex, which played out in a horrifically bloody display on the streets of Boston. We must destroy these feelings of self-esteem in children before more people have to die needlessly."
Local parent Mitch Henderson might have dropped out of school in the eleventh grade, but his parenting strategies fall in line with those of Dr. Tupp. "One day, my boys came home proudly holding these 'Enviro-Pal' ribbons they got from planting trees with their classmates on Arbor Day," says Henderson. "Well, I shouldn't have to tell you that my blood was absolutely boiling. I grabbed my youngest by his shirt collar and bellowed, 'Where did you get this!?' When all he could do was urinate, I turned to his big brother, who broke the news to me through furious sobbing. 'Get in the Silverado,' I told them, knowing they'd thank me for this in the future."
Some may call Henderson's tough love "extreme," but this father of three claims he gets results. "So, we pull up to the field with all those freshly planted trees, and I ask the boys to show me their handiwork," he says. "Right away, I could smell the stink of our feminized public school system. I asked my boys, 'Now, are your trees bigger than anyone else's?' They sadly shook their heads. I headed back to the truck, grabbed a can of gasoline, and made them burn their pathetic attempts at botany right there on the spot. Since then, they've never been more well-behaved--days, even weeks pass before I even notice them scurrying about the house. Must be all that studying they're doing."
Even with parents like Henderson fighting this ongoing trend, we may have reached the point where the damage is irreversible. "I can't think of a phenomenon that been more damaging to the American People. And unlike Cop Rock, it won't fade away anytime soon," says Tupp. "What? It's a pretty well-known reference. I'm sorry if you don't get it."
If Dr. Tupp has any regrets, it's that we didn't learn our lesson decades ago. "The whole 'feelgood' movement," he says, "which started in the '70s, has had a deleterious effect that may take our country centuries to correct. I mean, treating children with respect and encouraging them regardless of whether or not they fail--what the hell were we even thinking!?"
I had to register my complaints while they were still fresh. And while the bark was still fresh and pliable.
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