Awards are given with the intent of congratulating an individual on their hard work and accomplishments. The presence of award ceremonies has only grown with the rise of extreme academic competitiveness.
Students are encouraged to build up their resume and college applications with as many achievements as possible. Many of those, however, end up being given out simply for participating in a program or event. The realization later in life that an individual is not as talented or qualified as their awards had indicated can be a hard pill to swallow.
The idea of participation awards is not inherently bad if distributed properly. At a young age, when one has not fully developed the concept of another receiving an award for something they did as well, participation awards are acceptable.
In elementary school, it makes sense to hand out a soccer medal to every child on each team. Doing so promotes a less competitive attitude toward recreational activities. Continuing to hand them out past elementary school, however, is only hurting children in the long run.
Participation ribbons or certificates awarded past elementary school give adolescents a false sense of security that they are doing well enough, even outstanding, by doing nothing. This behavior tends to encourage a sense of entitlement and superiority when these children are not doing anything to truly earn their awards. While awards used to be earned wholeheartedly, they are now little more than party favors to the children receiving them.
Continuing to hand out awards based on the only requirement of showing up conditions an individual to do little work and get a great result, which is just not how the world works. Once in college and even the labor force, students may find themselves confused and falling behind as they were not taught the skills of how to work to achieve something.
Not only does the plethora of awards given out create a false sense of security for students, but also diminishes the value of the awards that are actually earned. The more of something one has, the less likely they are to be appreciative or excited about it. Many of these awards line dusty shelves in the corner of student’s bedrooms, forgotten about in a pile of others alike.
Though participation awards have many flaws, they are nice in the sense that they provide those who work hard, but are not in the top group of kids who seemingly earn the more prestigious awards or those related to grade point average (GPA), with recognition and an incentive to continue their efforts.
But, if the idea of participation awards at a later age is truly to promote inclusivity, the system needs to be adjusted.
Instead of handing out rewards for little effort shown, more awards should be made to recognize more obscure talents. This way, those who receive awards have actually earned them and more individuals are recognized for things other than academic accomplishments.
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