Now that I’m a father, I have a whole new suite of fears that keep me up at night. Obviously, cops are an even bigger problem now. I’m worried that one day I’ll have to Walter White my son’s druggie girlfriend (which I would do). But one of my chiefest concerns is that one day, my son will strike out three times en route to his team losing 10 – 0 in the big game, yet afterwards some do-gooding hippie prick will hand him a trophy. A participation trophy. And we’ll be sitting there at the Friendly’s with his little trophy-for-failing, and I’ll have to explain to him why he doesn’t deserve that and needs to throw it in the trash. And I’LL look like the asshole.
But it will have to be done. Participation trophies ruin lives. They create a false sense of accomplishment that tells kids to be proud of mediocrity at the very time they should be learning important lessons about dealing with failure and overcoming setbacks. It’s not that there’s no value in losing, it’s that such value has to come from inside as opposed to an external reward. ROCKY DIDN’T NEED A PARTICIPATION TROPHY FOR GOING THE DISTANCE.
There’s a new study out today on American attitudes about participation trophies. If you look at the demographic breakdown, you’ll see similarities between the people who are in favor of participation trophies and the people who end up at the nation’s worst law schools. That makes a certain kind of sense. Isn’t a school like Cooley really just offering figurative participation trophies for those who lost on the LSAT?
Thankfully, a majority of Americans now recognize participation trophies for the character destroying scourge that they are. Or, they just kind of don’t like them, polls don’t always measure the intensity of a viewpoint. A Reason-Rupe poll shows that 57% of Americans think that only “winners” should get trophies, while 40% think everybody should get some hardware, and arguably 3% think that life is hard and the sweet release of death is the only trophy that can be bestowed.
But when you break down the numbers, the demographic splits get really interesting. The charts are to the right. If you have less money and less education, you are more likely to think that everybody should get a trophy. The survey also shows that Democrats are more likely to believe in participation trophies than Republicans.
That in itself is not surprising. If you are poor, you are less likely to think that only winners deserve things, while people who don’t win the game should get nothing. The more education you have, the more likely you are to have received positive reinforcement in school, and probably in life, and are probably comfortable with that reinforcement being reserved for people who have done exceptionally well. I don’t want to call Democrats “good” and Republicans “evil”… but I think it’s fair to observe that Democrats tend to be a little more concerned with valuing all the contributions to a community, while Republicans are, you know, not. It makes perfect sense that a left-leaning, lightly-educated, lower-income person would think “Sure, everybody should get something.”
Unfortunately, those are EXACTLY the kinds of people that low-end law schools prey upon. They eat the lunch of people who want to better their financial situation, and their community, but don’t have the knowledge of how the legal education game is played. “You want a trophy? Come to Chico’s Bail Bonds School of Law! With just three annual payments, you can get your very own Juris Certificate that your mom can affix to your refrigerator because you are a pillar of the community. MAGNET INCLUDED!”
But I’m not just arguing that low hanging law schools trawl the waters of the participation trophy crowd. I’m also saying that the culture of participation trophies allows such law schools to exist. If you’ve been told all your life that just showing up is enough to achieve a modicum of success, how can you be told — at 22-years-old when somebody like me finally gets to you — that going to any old law school that you can get into is not enough to achieve your goals? If you’ve learned that the only difference between world-beating success and pathetic failure is the size of the trophy, how can you possibly appreciate that you can “participate” in law school for three years and still end up not becoming an employed attorney? If everybody wins, how can you properly asses the risks of losing?
Look at the Tweets from 1Ls that Joe posted earlier today. They’re not bad kids, they’re probably not even altogether stupid people. They just have hope. FALSE F**KING HOPE. They haven’t learned, yet, that sometimes trying your best is WOEFULLY INADEQUATE in a capitalist society.
Telling your kids that their best isn’t good enough is hard. Most parents can’t bear to do it. THAT IS WHY GOD INVENTED SPORTS. Sports, and other types of childhood competitions, exist to teach children how to fail — how to put forth your best effort and lose — in a safe environment. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the sportsmen who have so much athletic talent that they never lost as children. They are, to a man, ASSHOLES. They are princlings who don’t even begin to behave like normal humans until age or the Spurs humble them.
People who have learned to recognize and overcome defeat say: “Damn, I got 144 on the LSAT. That’s f**king pathetic. Clearly, I need to re-examine my goals and either do something else with my life or engage in more practice and training before I take on the massive challenge of going to law school.” People who have learned that everybody gets a trophy say: “Well, my LSAT score is lower than I hoped. OH WELL. I’m sure that there are law schools that admit people with my scores. Once I get my foot in the door, I’ll do better. I promise.”
We should want our would-be law students to act like the former instead of the latter.
PS: Back in the day, I was the cleanup hitter for my little league team. Two on, two out, bottom of the sixth, down by one, I come up to the plate. I froze, I choked, I was too scared to swing the bat. I walked on five or six pitches, including one fat one right down the middle. Next guy struck out, we lost, no trophy. Coach didn’t yell and scream or anything, but he looked at me (not the kid who struck out) with total disgust.
Lots of things have happened in my life since then, including: curveballs, Marlboro’s, obesity, and the Sony Playstation. But I’ve never again been afraid to swing the bat. If I had gotten a freaking ribbon and a “you’ll get ‘em next time” from a patronizing adult… well I’d probably still be working at a law firm right now.