Mental health is such a problem in schools but Dede Rittman argues pupils cannot be wrapped in cotton wool.
They need to experience and learn from competition, success and failure.
I was in the classroom for 37 years, and for 35 of those years, I taught at North Allegheny, one of the best school districts in both Pennsylvania and the United States. Academic competition was keen, and many of our students gained entry to top 10 universities and went on to great careers Students worked hard to win recognition, and the quest to achieve the status of senior class speakers was extremely competitive. Our school district creates and continues to sustain a culture of excellence, and they also continue to recognize excellence in the classroom, in sports, and in all aspects of Education. North Allegheny continues to prepare students for the competition they will face in the real world, and students benefit from the competition.
I was quite perplexed when I heard that a school district in Ohio has decided not to recognize any student as a valedictorian or salutatorian in the coming school year. The reason? Concerns about student mental health, including depression, anxiety, and suicide.
Although I recognize the importance of mental health and stress, I believe the school district is actually hurting the students by removing the competition. Losing and winning small battles through the school years helps students to learn to deal appropriately with bigger disappointments in later life, and how to win with grace and humility. In the current culture of “everyone gets a trophy”, students need to learn that they are not going to be rewarded for participation, and that competition will become a way of life – in college, in the job search, and in maintaining and advancing in the work world. This should be a lesson learned while in school, but with no stress/no competition values, that lesson is going to be exponentially more shocking when it happens in college or an employment situation. I really believe that removing academic competition in school is doing a huge disservice to the students. When students face true competition, my fear is they will fail and fold, since they will have no real life experience with the inability to make the grade. I believe in encouraging and recognizing EXCELLENCE, not rewarding mediocrity. Kids need to understand failure in order to understand success.
“The best way to demotivate and lose top performers is by rewarding mediocrity.” Jameson St. Claire
If you have not heard about Mason High School, here are two links to the story.
As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions.