By Gary Wolsky, President/CEO
The Village Family Service Center
Steelers linebacker James Harrison wrote on his Instagram account he is taking away the participation trophies awarded to his two sons—ages 8 and 6—until they “EARN a real trophy.”
Finally someone with some common sense speaks about the political correctness that’s infecting our culture. He may not be the best role model in the country, but he certainly has this right.
The problem with political correctness is that it defies reality. We are simply NOT all the same, and no amount of artificially trying to re-balance the scales can make people equal when they are not. One of the many joys in life is discovering those things at which we excel and the things that give us satisfaction. From there, we downplay and mitigate the things we’re not so good at. It’s called life. A constant process of living in reality and adjusting as necessary.
Getting a trophy or other award just for “showing up” distorts how the real world works. You can pass a third or fourth grader on for “social” reasons, but if he can’t read, he knows it and his future employer will know it, too. All three of my kids played a lot of sports. They had some wonderful coaches and some lousy coaches, some wonderful teams and some lousy teams. They were very good at some sports and not so good at others, but from all of them they learned lessons in real life—complete with excitement and the occasional disappointment and tears. It’s true that we learn more from our challenges than our successes, and telling someone they’ve “won” when they haven’t is simply lying to them. John Wayne said, “Life is tough, but it’s tougher if you’re stupid.” If we are not straightforward and honest with children, we put them at a disadvantage.
Somewhere in my adult life, I began to look at many things through the template of a bell curve. It is probably one of the most natural and predictable occurrences in nature—including human behavior. All the rules on political correctness people conjure up cannot change the facts—there are natural differences in every dimension we know. Understanding this and working within the reality it suggests will always be better than denying it. All the trophies you can manufacture won’t change the facts, and sheltering children from reality puts them at a disadvantage.
Our country’s founding documents speak definitively about equal opportunity. It falls short in some ways, but in the history of mankind, it’s the most level playing field that’s ever been created. There is no mention of equal outcomes. There are simply no guarantees. You can work tirelessly, and due to a host of unanticipated events, you can still lose.
We’ve creatively concocted some very good “safety nets” to soften the risk, such as various forms of insurance products. These are very useful tools. But you can’t buy anything that counteracts laziness, lack of education, or an attitude of victimhood. Giving trophies or accolades when they’re meaningless is in defiance of nature, and I believe it represents a politically correct approach that has never worked in other societies and won’t work in ours.
Our job as parents and society as a whole is more about helping our children develop their strengths and compete well—with strong values and positive attitudes—in what sometimes is a difficult world. Distorting their reality will not prepare them for the real world.
The opinions expressed in this column are strictly those of The Village Family Service Center CEO. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the organization, staff, or boards of directors.
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