After posting the original blog concerning failure and how dangerous it can be for us, I recalled another instance where this habit can be more toxic. Another relative of mine, thirteen years my junior, attended the same middle school as I did. Upon the completion of his 8th grade school year, he was going to fail two courses, requiring him to attend and pass summer school, or else be held back from high school. This same predicament also happened to two of my closest friends in middle school, thirteen years before. Here’s the difference over a decade can make: My cousin was able to participate in the promotion ceremony; my friends were required to stay home on the last day of school. This is not a question of fair or unfair; that argument is irrelevant. The point is that today’s kids, from what I have seen, are coddled and protected from reality. It’s all about letting kids feel good about themselves, despite the fact that they didn’t complete the work they were being rewarded for completing. Many people see this as improving one’s self-esteem; that’s bullshit. I could dedicate a 5,000 word post as to why, but I’ll give the executive summary instead: Self-esteem is meaningless without substance. And that’s what we’re teaching people these days, whether it be a participation trophy, a high school diploma, or a petty middle school promotion ceremony.
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