Thank God I'm just a grandparent these days, without school-aged kids who are trapped in an increasingly bizarre and irrational world run by adults - mostly parents and otherwise unemployable administrators-- where the rules, the procedures and the approved behaviors vary daily and the changes come so rapidly and abruptly that the characters in Alice in Wonderland would be totally jealous. The unfortunate teachers are sadly caught in between, desperately trying to please everyone.
As a grandfather, I don't have to attend parent-teacher conferences or get pedantic notes sent home with my son or daughter addressing the latest concerns of a bunch of thumb-sucking, politically correct, out-of-control idiots. But I do have to live with the increasingly depressing prospect that our future workforce (not to mention our economic and social future) is being mucked up by these morons. By default, and our own inattention, we've regrettably left the wrong people in charge of the education and future of our kids. Things aren't going to get better unless we get actively involved and try to knock some sense into these zealots, who are all worried about everyone's feelings whatever the facts may be. These people practice and promote a bogus brew of pop sociology and psychology and shared "wisdom" that has as much contact with reality as Fox News.
Our kids are being victimized by a bunch of crazy granola-heads and "procto-parents" ("helicopter parents" doesn't accurately describe it) who are systematically ruining our kids' respect for rigor and sucking the stuffing right out of them. Traits like grit and a thick skin, which we used to believe you'd need to succeed, are now passé. Instead, they are demanding that we dumb down every class and slowly killing our country's competitiveness. I refer to "victimized" in old-fashioned, dictionary sense of the word and not in today's double-talk where everyone gets to be a victim and terrible "triggers" abound. And when I say procto-parents, I mean parents who are totally into minding their kids' and everyone else's business, but don't know the first thing about effective education, or how to build the kind of self-sufficient, self-starting students that we actually do need to compete in the global marketplace.
We have to be preparing our kids for the path ahead, not spending all of our time preparing the path for our kids, smoothing the road and softening every blow, and running interference for a bunch of pampered princes and princesses who won't be able to cope with the real world if they ever even get there. Before long, what few phys ed classes are left in our schools will have a separate cohort of kids resting comfortably on massage-ready, La-Z-Boy loungers because they brought a note from home saying they're entirely "allergic" to work while the rest of the class plays games where no one keeps score, everyone's a winner, and there are trophies to take home for mom and dad to proudly display.
We're seeing a world where awards and acknowledgments are replacing actual achievements. Schools across the country are eliminating the recognition of academic excellence in favor of worthless attendance awards. They are commending punctuality instead of performance. Last year, a high school in Ohio named more than 200 kids in the graduating class "valedictorians" because they didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings. This stuff sucks and must be stopped. We need to challenge our children and give them at least a little look into the real world, where there are winners and losers every day. When everyone's a winner, we all lose in the end.
There's a very good reason that we establish examples and role models and behaviors to be emulated. It's because we want our kids to aspire to greatness, and not to just get along and make ends meet. And if you can't "see it," if you can't watch and want the success of those around you (and the accomplishments of the many who went before you as well), you can't ever hope to "be it".
The idea that "trying" is what counts-- regardless of results--is a dreary commentary and a cheap excuse foisted on the real doers and the winners by sad sacks and also-rans who just can't cut it. Of course effort matters. You accomplish nothing by wishful thinking and half-hearted attempts. But we demean and diminish the standouts and the ones who will really make a difference in our lives when we insist on lumping them with the rest of the mediocre pack while pretending that the world doesn't care about outcomes. We keep score and we measure in our lives and our businesses because ultimately what we measure and what we care about is what gets done.