Pro footballer James Harrison has had his 8-year-old and 6-year-old sons return trophies they received for participating in a sports activity. He wrote on Instagram:
“I came home to find out that my boys received two trophies for nothing, participation trophies! While I am very proud of my boys for everything they do and will encourage them till the day I die, these trophies will be given back until they EARN a real trophy. I’m sorry I’m not sorry for believing that everything in life should be earned and I’m not about to raise two boys to be men by making them believe that they are entitled to something just because they tried their best…cause sometimes your best is not enough, and that should drive you to want to do better…not cry and whine until somebody gives you something to shut u up and keep you happy.”
As reported here in the Washington Post, his action received a lot of support on the Internet. People may be finally getting fed up with the excesses of the feel-good, everyone’s-a-winner culture.
I’m not so sure you can’t give a “participation” trophy to a very young child and still foster a “want to do better” attitude. I don’t where the cutoff is: perhaps 4- and 5-year-old get a crest or something, and the win-or-lose trophies kick in by the age of Harrison’s kids. I do agree with his bottom line about entitlement. Let’s not forget that at one end of the continuum is the “participation” trophy and at the other end is the “Occupy” movement and the “safe” room on campus: a world in which self-regard is all, in which feeling virtuous trumps actually achieving anything. Remember the “Occupy” movement? All those demonstrations in the service of….well, what, exactly? As I wrote in Beyond Age Rage:
“There is no connection between desired goals, policies that would achieve those goals, and actions that could bring those policies into force in the real world. It is all make-believe.”
Maybe it started when they received “participation” trophies as little kids…