Sunday, February 24, 2013

We're not all winners

While '5-star' may be seen as an indication of achievement  (think 5-star generals, and 5 star restaurants), if we make everything 5-star, stars quickly become meaningless.

The other day, I was on my iPad, browsing through the app store.  Yes, I already have a gazillion apps, but they're coming out with new apps every day... and sometimes they're bigger, or better, or cheaper.

But sometimes, they're not.

So as I look through the available apps, if I see one that seems interesting, I take a look at the reviews.  One or two stars --  I move on.  If an app has 4 or 5 stars, it's worth a further look, and I read the reviews.  After all, it's always a good idea to hear from someone who's used a product you're considering.

So I was very disappointed when I come across a bunch of apps that seemed of interest, but when I started reading some of the reviews... reviews where people had given the app 3 or 4 stars ..  people were using words like 'mediocre', 'poor',  and 'buggy'.  Huh??
So I looked for some standard, relative to the rating of apps, and couldn't find anything.  But even so . why would you give 3 stars to something you weren't happy with?
This isn't 3 stars out of 100, or even 3 stars out of 50, it's 3 stars out of 5.... that's more than 50%.
Those three stars just became meaningless.

Reminds me of one of my pet peeves.  When I was in school, we had field day  (kind of like a mini-Olympics, for each grade level), and spelling bees, and science fairs.  As I moved on to junior high and high school, we continued to have things like science fairs, and we had debate contests, and we elected class officers.  And at each of those events, a few people won, and some came in second, or third, and some won nothing at all.  You might even say they lost.  And that was ok.  Oh sure, those who lost were disappointed, and even some of those who came in second or third, were disappointed.  And I'll be honest, sometimes, people were so disappointed, that they cried.  But everyone survived, and moved on.

Today, there seems to be a focus in school on making sure that 'everyone is a winner'.  Everybody walks away with a ribbon... every body.  If awards are handed out, every student gets at least one award.  What does this accomplish?  I understand that proponents of this approach believe that this builds self-esteem in young people.  But this is a short-sighted view.  I'd suggest that, in fact, what this approach does is diminish the importance of winning, takes away any incentive to do well, and does an extremely poor job of preparing these children for life in the real world.  If children are led to believe that everyone wins, every time ...  what happens when they get out in the real world?  Because, in the real world, there's no question that there are winners, and there are non-winners.  In the real world, not everyone gets the job they applied for, not everyone gets the raise that they asked for, not everyone wins.

Trying your best, doesn't make you the best.  And that's another thing.  If anyone can get a ribbon or award, if even mediocre and poor receives 3 stars, if everyone is a winner, there's no longer any incentive or motivation to even try your best.

Even as adults who grew up in the 'winners and losers' age, we're disappointed today when we don't win, when we don't get what we wanted, when we don't get what we think we're entitled to.  But at least we've been prepared.  Children who never lose, who never have the opportunity to lose... are not prepared for the real world.  And these are the same children who now award 3 stars out of 5  to something they don't like.  It's time to return to reality.

My reality???   I hear the kettle whistling, and I'm ready for another cup of tea.


  1. In a socialist state, everyone is equal. There are no winners. That is where the trend is heading, at least in my view. If you educate your populace to believe that there is no one better at something than another, those who would excel stop trying because there is no reward for hard work; and those who wouldn't ever excel anyway, don't have to work at all because they'll get the same reward as everyone else. And those handing out the rewards... can make them as cheap as they like because there are no expectations of getting anything of value.

  2. Very true, and well put. Why try harder when you are always already a "winner"?