Empahsizing Achievement




Today, in all schools alike, there is an emphasis placed on student leadership, success, and achievement. Children are repeatedly told from elementary school through college, that with hard work and dedication anything is possible and they have the potential for greatness. This notion, in and of itself is not potentially harmful to a child, however, when greatness is defined in terms of power and money, a warped view of the important factors in life is created. Not every person desires to be a leader just as not every person should be a leader. The concept of success and achievement poses a similar predicament. Not every child is destined to be a doctor or lawyer when they grow up nor should every child become one simply for the prestige that it offers. Every position in society, from the custodian to the research scientist, plays an equally important function in society. Besides placing emphasis on high achievement, many schools have adopted the practice of increasing children’s self esteem. While it is important to help children embody a positive self-image, esteem is something that ought to be developed through achievement rather than praise.
Recently, schools have done away with choosing first place winners and replaced it with an emphasis on the value of participation. In school sponsored sports, to ensure that every student has the opportunity to participate freshmen teams have been created and most schools have regulations to monitor the playing time of each athlete. Some may argue that this will help to increase student’s self-confidence under the premise that every student should be made to feel like number one. However, this will lower the standards of expectation and eliminate the competitive drive to be the best. Why would one athlete work hard when other members on the team are not and still given playing time? When this situation is present, the motivating factor of being the best is eliminated and student athletes will work for the same level of guaranteed recognition where every person is number one because they tried.
A similar situation is present with academics and the concept of homework or “busy work”. A number of teachers at the middle school and high school level will assign work simply for the sake of having something for students to turn in. Most homework is intended to serve as reinforcement for what it taught in class. However, if the assignment is graded on the basis of whether or not the student completed the assignment rather than answering the problems correctly, the reinforcement is useless. If a student is given credit despite their incorrect answers, then the only thing being reinforced are the incorrect assumptions that student has made. An example of this is any assignment that is collected and graded not on the content or correctness of the student’s answers, rather on whether it appears as though the student put for an effort to attempt the homework and complete the assignment. Under this premise, there is no sufficient reason for a student to put forth the time and effort needed to complete the assignment properly. Why would one student invest the extra time to work through a challenging math problem when they will receive the same amount of credit as another student who spent little time and answered the problem incorrectly? The truth of the matter is that most students will not.
Some people may displace the blame arguing that it is the problem of the times or that it is one of the many examples of the laziness of the generation. All people entered this world in the same manner regardless of what generation, it is the way people have been conditioned and the way in which they learn that teaches them values and what is the highest good. If children are conditioned to believe that the highest good is success and achievement then it comes as no surprise that people will take the simplest and most leisurely path to achieve that. This attitude is very prevalent in schools that offer advanced placement courses. A number of students at the high school level will take these courses simply because they are advanced and offer more prestige. As a result of this attitude, many advanced placement or accelerated courses