I went to what was supposed to be a 5th-grade ceremony for upper middle-class students this past Spring. It was held with all the pomp and circumstance of a high school awards ceremony at feeder high school in the high school’s fancy auditorium. It looked like it was going to be a really nice event at first.
The ceremony went from ushering the little ones off to the 5th grade to celebrating and congratulating them for all sorts of non-noteworthy normal crap most people didn’t even need to know about. Kids were being celebrated for being on the safety patrol, for being in one of the school’s 3 to 4 school plays held during the school year, for just being in the darn Science Club. Each kid’s name was called for any little activity they participated in, and I do mean any.
There was nothing special or exceptional done…the school just decided to recognize each kid in every club or activity. This school had like 40 clubs for elementary school children. I’m impressed, I think.
A ceremony that should have taken maybe two hours to send kiddies off to the next school ended up taking nearly five hours. I was with a friend and I was so annoyed at my valuable time being wasted to recognize “regular.” I am all for encouraging and celebrating youth making moves and doing big things, but every little Johnny and Mary didn’t do anything to receive such a grand ceremony.
The parents of the normal kids could have recognized their kids in their kitchen at their dinner tables for what they did all school year. They didn’t need me or the countless other parents in attendance who took off from work to watch this magnificent spectacle of an event.
To top it off, to close out the ceremony, the principal called out every single teacher and every single student in the 5th grade graduating class to do this long walk from their seats, to the stage, to wait on their round of applause, and then to go back to their seats. This after all the recognition of the previous normal/regular.
Just shoot me in my ass with an air nailer already why don’t ya!
By this time, I was fucking unglued. Annoyed, I said to my friend “These kids are regular, why in the hell are we recognizing them?” Not to mention stroking the egos of the superficial parents scattered throughout the audience waiting for their normal kid’s names to be called. As usual, I was labeled the impatient Grumpy Gusserson for not wanting to stroke the normal kids’ egos.
By the final hour of the ceremony, I had gone back to doing my work by cellphone. I just couldn’t handle it anymore. I felt the ceremony was a total disrespect of my time. I grew up in a different era, and we didn’t get rewards unless we did something worthy of one. My kids are grown now, but I can’t ever recall sitting through such foolery, even during their high school years.
It’s funny now, but at the time I was so annoyed at the fact the school decided it was perfectly okay that 500 regular kids needed to be recognized individually in some form or fashion with pomp and circumstance that only 100 of the kids in the entire 5th grade class really deserved.
Everyone walked away with his/her ego stroked, including the parents of all the basic Johnnies, Janes, Marys, and Marcos, and that’s a shame.
Not many of the children were recognized as exceptional, but there were a few. Like the kid who raised $10,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, or the child who wrote a children’s book and was recognized by the local newspaper as a published author. That’s some noteworthy stuff.
Another kid got a perfect attendance award for not missing any days from school from kindergarten until the last day of fifth grade, which was quite a feat with all the nasty little cootie bugs kids tend to pass to one another. There were a group kids from the school’s STEM Club who created a robot that went on to compete in a state STEM competition, and a few other exceptional kids that did things that made me feel like the ceremony to recognize their achievements was worth my time.
I can’t even remember the other exceptional kids though, because I was inundated with hordes of regular kids. I spent nearly five hours of my time that I can never get back to honor regular, not exceptional. I wasn’t sure if this was an upper-middle class or wealthy thing, but it sure is different than how the working poor children are recognized. Nobody just gives them shit.
We all were sitting around applauding a bunch of regular. For the record, being regular is just fine. I consider myself regular, and I don’t expect any awards or recognition for being just, regular. This same friend’s sixth grader got some junk award from her teacher for basically being nice. She tried to get me to go, but once I saw how the folks in her community rolled, I was good on the experience.
My friend sat in an audience for hours to watch her kid get some cheap certificate for nothing extraordinary. It’s almost like a constellation prize award for not being good at anything the school should recognize academically. The kid did not quite make the cut, so we’ll give you this thing, so you won’t feel bad.
Except, that’s not how real life works!
You almost had it…gotta be quicker than that.
When you compare the awards given to the regular or mediocre kids to the ones given to the truly exceptional kids, the recognition given to the regular kids really looks ridiculous.
Why are the standards so low for recognition today? Why do we feel the need to reward people for doing nothing, being normal, or for mediocrity, ? Why are we creating ego maniacs who will eventually grow up to assume the most mediocre thing they do will warrant some additional stroking of their already over-inflated egos?
I have no idea, but I just can’t be complicit in this anymore.
Somewhere in American culture, someone decided regular was not okay. That we all needed to be exceptional to be recognized and to achieve anything in society. That’s cool, it’s the norm, and it makes sense. Thanks to our capitalistic economy, we are so competitive here in the U.S. We compete against each other all of the time. Nobody wants to be labeled as basic, regular, normal, or status quo even though that’s what most of us are.
We need to be “the best” to get stuff, be seen, and to be recognized favorably among our peers.
We need to be “the best” student from preschool through high school so that we can get into “the best” college; which will help us to get “the best” job; so we can get the biggest house with “the best” car money can buy; to get “the best,” prettiest wife, to make the “best kids;” so those kids can have access to “the best” opportunities; for the “best chance” at a good life.
But do we really have the best? Probably not, I know I don’t.
Most of us just have regular shit. We’re just basic as hell. We just dress it up and call it “the best” to make ourselves feel good because we aren’t exceptional. We’re ordinary. We’re regular. We have decent, constellation prize lives that we are ashamed of because we know deep down we aren’t exceptional and some of really want to be. We walk around praising the regular we’re apparently ashamed of, and we’ve done it so long that now it’s taken root in our schools. We are recognizing basic children.
Regular… Let’s talk about it. Regular doesn’t matter in our society much.
It doesn’t sound good. Regular we are told second best when placed next to exceptional. Regular is flying under the radar. Regular is status quo. But best, best is supposed to be important. The term “the best” has a lot of power associated with it, and due to our approval-seeking nature, it feels good to be labeled best. So does having the label of being exceptional, which is why we want to treat everyone as if they are the best and exceptional, even when they aren’t.
We try to treat our children as if they are uncommon, not typical, unusual, or extraordinary, when in fact…the kids are just normal, and that’s just fine. We act as if there is something wrong with normal, when in all actuality it’s not. There are more normal (regular) people than there are exceptional ones. We should relish in our regular. We should appreciate and value it, but we sure as hell don’t need to try and turn it into exceptional.
When your kid is normal and you place him/her up against children who are exceptional, your kid just looks like a dull brown penny sitting next to a new shiny silver quarter every single time. I wish schools would stop encouraging this trend of recognizing normal. I wish parents would stroke their children’s egos at home.
With that said, can we please stop acting like our normal, regular kids are doing something exceptional and in need of recognition because they went to school? Going to school is required, there is nothing exceptional about that. Besides, what does do this reinforce in our kids? That I don’t need to strive for exceptional levels where recognition is truly warranted? They can just be a regular little kids and be praised for it.
No wonder we have so many narcissist among us today. We need to stop producing those monsters please, and thanks.
I don’t know how you feel about any of this…but I don’t want to sit through another recognition ceremony awarding normal, regular children. I know you love your babies, but let’s be real about this thing.
I’ll pass on normal recognition ceremonies from here on out. I would rather brush my teeth, clean toilets or rake leaves. My time is valuable, and I don’t want to waste it acknowledging what I already know, which is regular and normal.
I know what it is, because that’s what I am. I’m normal, no exceptional, and I’m proud of it.
Marley K., 2018