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Schools, Personal Responsibility, and the Workplace

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Many school systems and Pee Wee league football still demand that "every player gets a trophy," but the real world is not so generous and forgiving. Students have to know that failure to turn in an assignment is generally a negative choice that is accompanied by negative consequences. If they don't go to work in the real world, they don't get paid. Why set them up in school to believe that they need not complete assignments and they still receive a trophy (or get paid)? If they turn in an assignment, students earn SOME points/credit for doing so.

But how does a teacher reward the student who does not turn in an assignment at all in a similar fashion to how those who worked their tails off are rewarded? “Joey gets extra time to turn in HIS assignment, but the rest of you don’t” or some other such “hedge?” This seems like it follows the thinking of the parents who take their children to an amusement park on the weekend, then allow their offspring to miss an exam on Monday because the family stayed for an extra day of fun. The parents then expect the teacher to make special accommodations for the student, even though the student has told everyone in class where he and the family were on Monday. Where is the personal responsibility lesson in THIS?

The parent may have a "sick day" or "personal day" to take at work and still get paid, but they are teaching the student a lack of personal responsibility. When the teacher coddles the student as well, s/he is reinforcing the lesson that people will accommodate whatever one does, so no personal responsibility is necessary. We do no service to these students when we give them so much latitude that their work can be done whenever they get around to it, if at all. The real world in Western cultures works on calendars and clocks. Why bother assigning a due date to a paper or schedule an exam on a certain date if that schedule is a “suggestion” and not an actual due date.

Lessons in school come from more places than just textbooks. We can hand out un-earned trophies to everyone on the team, regardless of contribution, and continue to send MORE students into the workplace who fail because they don’t understand personal responsibility – a workplace in which not everyone gets a trophy.

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