The other day, my seven-year-old came home from school with a certificate in hand.
I was thrilled. “What did you win?” I asked her.
“It’s for doing Net-Set-Go.”
This confused me. My daughter was horrible at Net-Set-Go, a junior netball entry program — genuinely very bad. I considered having her tested for a rubber allergy, such was her inability to hold a netball.
“Did you… did you win the coach’s award?” I probed.
“No Dad! Everyone who played got an award” she replied, to my disgust.
As my daughter navigates her primary school years, her trophy cabinet has filled up. Unduly so, considering her lack of talent in virtually all pursuits.
Every sport she has ever tried and failed her hand in has gifted her a piece of gold-painted plastic. It seems unlikely that every student in her class is worthy of Student of the Week and, yet, somehow they’ve all won the award.
But this is a problem that extends well beyond our education system and grassroots sporting organizations.
Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace prize in 2014, aged just 17.
Her achievement? Just turning up to school.
For goodness sake, it’s like we aren’t even pretending to award children based on merit. Since when does just attending class deserve the world’s preeminent accolade for humanitarian work?
Malala didn’t even complete a Premiers Reading Challenge.
If we reward kids for just complying with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, they will never extend themselves. How can we teach them resilience? How to deal when things don’t go their own way?
In the end, I took my daughter’s certificate off her and ripped it into small pieces as she cried into the couch cushion.
I hope Malala’s mother did the same.