NOT Everyone’s A Winner

Stephanie Racker At this point in time, I think we’ve all come across a situation where the notion that “everyone’s a winner” has been preached to us. When I was in kindergarten, I remember participating in a swim meet that I didn’t win, but still receiving a participation award for my efforts. At the time, all I could think of was the fact that I received a shiny ribbon. It never once occurred to me the purpose behind receiving that award. In my life, I’ve noticed that participation awards are just one of the many aspects of the newly cultivated ideology that we’re all winners. Winning as a team or an individual can be an incredible confidence booster and offers a sense of pride that nothing else can. At times, unfortunately, these feelings of elation can be taken away and the efforts that led to the triumph can start meaning less. Being sensitive and aware of the way others might feel is critical for humans to create a safe environment to live in. However, the notion that everyone is always a winner is detrimental. For a child to grow up assuming that no matter how terribly they do, they’ll still get something, means that they could end up jeopardizing their success in life, particularly at a job. If you fail a project at work, your boss probably isn’t going to congratulate you for putting in the effort. In fact, you can run the risk of getting fired depending on how poorly you completed your task. Obviously, winning or handing out one participation award isn’t going to lead to some kind of downward spiral that dramatically affects an individual’s future and life plans. However, the problem comes when kids, especially students, lose one of the most crucial aspects of surviving in our modern day world: work ethic. An aspect of Latin that’s become increasingly influenced by the notion that “everyone’s a winner” are student-run plays. I personally love the concept of student-run plays as well as the productions themselves. Even though they’ve become a vital part of involving the Latin community, the typical one-play-a-year system has been replaced with a schedule that allows everyone who applies to direct. I’m not here to turn extracurricular aspects of the school into rigorous, stressful places where students constantly feel the need to one-up each other to get a spot. I simply think that without a bit of a push, students won’t always present their best selves: in the case of student-run plays, people start to automatically assume a role or position of their choice will be handed to them. Not only does the notion that everyone is a winner affect a student’s extracurricular endeavors, but it also makes students entitled towards their class grades. At Latin, I’ve noticed that students will often get offended when receiving a lower grade than they believe they deserved. To many, it doesn’t matter whether or not they understood the material presented to them or if they were even passionate about the class; all that matters is the letter on their report card. Therefore, students assume that by simply working hard and putting in effort (such as participating or completing homework) they should automatically receive a high grade. How good and insightful the work was isn’t considered as often by the student. Similarly, in the Forum, only certain articles are published for each issue. If an article doesn’t meet the needed criteria, it simply won’t be published no matter how much labor was put into the article by a student. Students are then sometimes left feeling frustrated because their hard work didn’t pay off the way they had assumed it would. Unfortunately, students must realize that unless work is done well, it won’t always matter how hard one tried because the final product is what tends to matter most. Not only does the concept that everyone’s a winner cause students to feel more qualified and deserving than what their work actually displays, but it can also create a fear of taking risks. Instead of taking a gamble on something unique and different that might not result in an ideal outcome, but that might be an incredible learning experience, students shy away from more challenging opportunities to avoid losing the momentum of constant success. Easier courses lead to a more favorable outcome because if students do the work and put forth some effort, as a whole, the class tends to walk away feeling like they’re all winners due to the “A” slapped on their report cards. That’s not to say that classes with an easier workload can’t teach valuable lessons, but many students don’t take the time to take a step back to appreciate what they learned. Harder courses, on the other hand, tend to not allow students easy access to success. The fear of failure leaves many students unwilling to push themselves and their peers because they’ve grown up never having to face the threat of a loss. As melodramatic as all this may sound, I am not petitioning to rid the world of participation awards or to create an environment that harbors constant pressure to win. All I ask is that the culture surrounding this idea that everyone’s a winner is lessened. I think that without the guarantee of a participation ribbon or an easy “A,” students might put on an even stronger performance than they already do because of a newly-found drive that would arise from feeling a little less comfortable in a secure position. Latin does a great job of being inclusive, and I think that this setting can still remain, simply with an added layer of motivation since students have gotten a bit too comfortable with the ease of success at the school. ]]>