There's a lot of talk about winning at school these days. Partly because it's track and field season, and there's lots of events. Partly because it's graduation, a time of awards and summing up. The phrase, We are all winners is pretty common. (Sometimes it's, You are all winners.) And in a weird way it's almost true: everyone comes home with something -- a ribbon, a scroll, a certification of participation (Congrats: You weren't sick or in jail!) It's like the school wants to make sure that everyone has a grab bag when they come home from the party.
I wonder what life lesson is being taught here? Does the school think that an all-inclusive reward for participation is going to carry over into the world? When the waiter loses Mrs Flinders' bill, he doesn't get a consolation tip -- he has to cover it. When the ad exec blows the Flinders account, she doesn't get a scroll. When the surgeon botches the operation, he gets sued by the Flinders estate.
Listening to one of these You are all winners speeches the other day, I was feeling mildly ticked at the hypocrisy of it all -- until I looked around the room, and saw the eyes rolling and heard the snickering. And then I felt better. Kids aren't stupid. They know they are not all winners. The life lesson is a true one: Whole lot of crap out there.
The principal, unhappy at the snickering, told everyone to smarten up in an I mean it kind of voice. The kids smartened up. I smiled. The system works.