As we wind down the fall competitive seasons with numerous trophies, plaques, ribbons, and medals being passed out for all kinds of rankings, ratings, and awards, I found it funny that even our little micro-enterprise received “a major award.”
In fact, for the third year in a row (Hey! a three-peat!) our company Instruction & Design Concepts was awarded the “Best of Dayton Awards for Educational Services.” Now, before you’re too impressed you might want to consider the source of these awards over the years.
Now, to be clear I’m significantly cynical and yet a bit concerned about even acknowledging this “award” simply to make a point. Here’s why: Some people won’t ever read this! They’ll just see the picture of the awards and send us an unaware note, comment or email of congratulations. There was no application process, no adjudication process, no recommendation process, just the award. According to the web site, “The Award Program is an annual awards program honoring the achievements and accomplishments of local businesses throughout the area.” Really?! “Recognition is given to those companies that have shown the ability to use their best practices and implemented programs to generate competitive advantages and long-term value.” Best practices?! WOW! Now, the crystal award, plaque, or both cost between $79.99 and $199.98 depending on if you want to include the complimentary digital-award image and personalized press release. We decided to pass knowing (as they say) “it was an honor just to be nominated.”
Do people really buy these? I wonder if the over-emphasis on results, scores, and rankings builds an expectation of excellence that isn’t… well… really excellent? It just looks like you’re excellent. “See! We’ve got these fancy awards!” The good people at awardservice.org have no idea who we are, what we do, or how we serve the organizations we work with. The don’t care as long as we send in our order.
Perhaps I’m a bit jaded about trophies, plaques, ribbons. medals and awards because I grew up with a grandfather who owned a sporting-goods store: Kick’s Athletic Goods. We’d get to go to grandpa’s store and help build the trophies. Once he even let us build our own little trophy to take home with us. The six-inch, faux-marble, gold-plastic figurine-topped award even had my name engraved on a brass plate! Nice and shiny too.
As you see all the hardware handed out following some end-of-season championship event this fall, just remember that the trophy, plaque, medal, or ribbon is simply a symbol that represents the culmination of a process. It’s like a snapshot of some moment in time. Shared to remind you of what you did, not what you won. Acknowledging the process you pursued, not just the result you achieved. Yet too many times it’s the trophy that earns the praise of others, not the trial and tribulations of constantly improving what we do and how we do it.
Carol Dweck, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University in California, conducted dozens of studies about praise’s impact on students’ self-esteem and their academic achievement. She states that students would be better served long-term if we offered “praise for the process the child engages in—their hard work, trying many strategies, their focus, their perseverance, their use of errors to learn, their improvement.”
That doesn’t mean trophies, plaques, ribbons. medals and major awards are bad. They’re a sincere token of appreciation, a memento of celebration, and an exclamation of recognition. Just don’t let their glistening shine overshadow the real reason we come together to complete against ourselves first, and each other second. To challenge ourselves first, and each other second. To compare ourselves to “our best” first, and to others second. Because from first place to last place, we need to sincerely appreciate what we do and how we do it—regardless of circumstances—to continuously improve how we do what we do. Otherwise, our intrinsic motivation will be punished by rewards.
The word ‘compete’ comes from the Latin word ‘competere’ which means to meet, to come together, to agree. The Latin root com- meaning with or together and petere meaning to seek or strive toward. In later Latin, the word developed the sense of to strive together or to strive in common which was the basis for the English word competition.
Online Etymology Dictionary and the Oxford Latin Dictionary
Share your comments as they relate to competition
Love to find and share some real-world examples from various competitive activities that illustrate how to balance the nurturing of more intrinsic motivation without over-emphasizing the extrinsic rewards. Here’s one to start you thinking and sharing…
Using a national survey of 2,314 U.S. public school students, David Just and Brian Wansink from Cornell University, compared lunch purchases in schools with debit-only systems to those with both debit and cash payment options. Debit-only payment systems were associated with students buying more unhealthy à la carte foods. While students in debit and cash schools actually bought more fresh fruit and vegetables.
So after cutting recess for students (so they can have more instructional class time) and implementing debit card/payment systems (so they can get through the lunch line faster) we wonder why American students keep getting fatter and fatter?
On a sarcastically positive note, far fewer kids will get bullied in school — at least during recess for their lunch money.
While the world continues to discover “there’s an app for everything” some are concerned with the over-integration of iPad-like technology (especially at such a young age). The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends eliminating all screen time for kids under age two FYI. There’s even a petition asking David Allmark, Executive Vice President of Fisher-Price, to stop selling the Newborn-to-Toddler Apptivity™ Seat for iPad®.
Fisher-Price – the most trusted name in quality toys – has been helping to make childhood special for generations of kids. Their philosophy even states: “We believe in the potential of children and in the importance of a supportive environment in which they can grow, learn, and get the best possible start in life.” I wonder how many of the Fisher-Price designers on this product recall the words of their company founders: “Fisher-Price toys should have intrinsic play value, ingenuity, strong construction, good value and action.” – Herman Fisher, Irving Price, Helen Schelle, 1930.
This Apptivity seat, which sells for $80, has an adjustable three-position seat designed to fit both infants and toddlers (up to 40 pounds). “There are so many awful screen products for babies these days, but the Fisher-Price Newborn-to-Toddler Apptivity™ Seat for iPad® device is the worst yet. It’s a bouncy seat for an infant – with a place for an iPad directly above the baby’s face, blocking his or her view of the rest of the world. And because screens can be mesmerizing and babies are strapped down and “safely” restrained, it encourages parents to leave infants all alone with an iPad. To make matters even worse, Fisher-Price is marketing the Apptivity Seat – and claiming it’s educational – for newborns“
NOTE: The iPotty is an award-winning toy. Members of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) have selected the iPotty as winner of this year’s TOADY (Toys Oppressive And Destructive to Young children) Award for the Worst Toy of the Year.
“Throughout history, kids have mastered toilet training without touch screens,” said CCFC’s Director, Dr. Susan Linn. “The iPotty is a perfect example of marketers trying to create a need where none exists. In fact, the last thing children need is a screen for every single occasion.”
Of course, imagine what will happen when these kids — who grow up with iPad-like technology embedded in everything — show up to Kindergarten? And you thought attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and attention deficit disorder (ADD) was rampant in children who watched too much television as toddlers?!
Diane Ravitch interviewed by Jon Stewart for the Daily Show [original airdate October 30, 2013] highlighted her new book, Reign of Error. Before you dismiss this as more book-tour marketing, watch and listen to the extended, un-edited version of the interview (most of which never aired). While she disputes the notion that American public schools are broken (they’re actually better than most people think) she also criticizes the test score-based teacher assessment movement with a number of substantive examples. Jon Stewart (admittedly a fake news anchor) brings a real-world insightfully-smart interview that’s well worth watching.
In a postmodern world—where more and more of the real world is turning into a Saturday Night Live sketch—consider this interview in the following context: According to a Pew Research study, 80% of regular Daily Show viewers are between 18 to 49 and between 12% to 16% of all Americans get their news from The Daily Show—a fake news show. But to be fair, compare that to 30% of Americans who get their news on Facebook and 8% of who get their news via Twitter.
This week I was “honored” (sorry, couldn’t resist) to be involved in one of the many National Honor Society Induction Ceremonies that occur across America. Officially established in 1921 by the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), the NHS ranks as one of the oldest and most prestigious national organizations recognizing outstanding high school students.
Four main purposes guide the National Honor Society: “To create enthusiasm for scholarship, to stimulate a desire to render service, to promote leadership, and to develop character.” NHS selection criteria is based on these same four purposes. Which given the current chaos in Washington, DC got me wondering, “How many members of Congress were inducted into the NHS way back when?” After all, what they learned then might serve them well now…
SCHOLARSHIP “Learning furnishes the lamp by which we read the past, and the light which illuminates the future.” (Learn from past mistakes and try not to repeat them.)
SERVICE “…work without monetary compensation or without personal recognition for the benefit of those in need…” (Serve for others, not for yourself.)
LEADERSHIP “…the willingness to yield one’s personal interests for the interest of others.” (“Others” meaning the nation as a whole, not just lobbyists or a small minority of your rabidly-vocal local constituents.)
CHARACTER “…is the product of constant action, daily striving to make the right choice.” (Action over words or sound bytes and making the right choice not just the self-serving choices that get you re-elected.)
When inducted, NHS members take a pledge “to prove by example that we value character. An untarnished character. To endeavor intelligently and courageously to be a leader.” Because “no matter what power and resources may exist in a country, they are ineffectual without the guidance of a wise leader.” Don’t we as a country deserve members of Congress who are “wise leaders?” Striving in every way by word and deed? “Leadership is always needed and is thus a charge to each of our National Honor Society members.”
Perhaps members of Congress would be well-served to find their old NHS pins from high school, remove the tarnish, and remember what they pledged then still applies now. Because you’re in Congress and the NHS motto “Noblesse Oblige” requires you to: “Act in a fashion that conforms with one’s position. An obligation to behave honorably, generously, and responsibly to others.”
Amanda Ripley authored an essay that appeared in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal on August 3, 2013. It was adapted from her forthcoming book, “The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way,” which was released today by Simon & Schuster. The article received hundreds of comments from readers and other media outlets have piled on the PR bandwagon.
FYI: Kim Ki-hoon (one of the rock star teachers mentioned) has 150,000+ students viewing his lessons every year via the online hagwon Megastudy.
The American Academy of Arts & Sciences recently released a film entitled The Heart of the Matter. In seven minutes, the film beautifully illustrates the reason STEM + Humanities = the how and why we need to create an educational system that does more than just prepare people to pass a standardized test, gain entrance to a college, or get a job.
Richard Brodhead, President of Duke University, shared some background on the commission he co-chaired during the press briefing. “We signed on to be members of this commission, not because we think the Humanities and Social Sciences are the only good thing in the world, but because we believe they are a necessary part of all the good things in the world.”
“Ultimately, this report calls on parents, teachers, scholars, the media, and the public at-large to join a cohesive and constructive national discussion of these issues. Many public and private organizations contribute to the vitality of the humanities and social sciences. Each organization has an important role in advancing the recommendations of this report.”
Richard Brodhead went on to say that, “we wanted to make some practical suggestions as to how all these causes could be furthered… Local libraries, local history societies, museums, colleges, universities, community colleges, philanthropic foundations, companies, there are a million possible partners and our suggestions are all aimed to try to get those many partners to think together about how strong we could be if we acted together and how relatively weakened we would be if we act alone.”
Instruction & Design Concepts
441 Maple Springs Drive
Centerville, OH 45458-9232 USA
Author of What Makes Kids KICK, Fran Kick has been inspiring people to KICK IT IN and TAKE THE LEAD since 1986 with convention/conference keynotes, breakouts, in-services, orientations, workshops, programs, retreats, educational consulting and publishing.