Indiscriminate Affirmation

I just learned the disconcerting fact that A’s are the most common grade given out in universities.  This makes the highest grade offered to be essentially a participation ribbon. Participation ribbons are given out to children who participate in a sport or contest, but do not win.  They receive a ribbon just for participating.  I would hate to think that going to university is something that one receives affirmation for simply for participating.

This reflects a general cultural condition.  Today we affirm self-affirmation.  Indeed, we affirm affirming.  We want to give our children self-esteem.  So we praise them.  Indiscriminately?

There is something to be said for praise and affirmation in the developing child.  I confess that as a child I received almost no affirmation or praise.  Except for extraordinary accomplishments.  Hence, I became driven to excel and succeed.  And at times I did accomplish and succeed beyond my parents’ and siblings’ expectations or even comprehension.  (Certainly I had my share of failures and screw-ups, as well.)

But I think that the pendulum has swung too far in giving affirmation.  What would be the result except that performance and standards are not significant?  If everything is OK and praiseworthy, where is the motivation to truly merit praise?

And won’t those raised to believe that they merit affirmation just for being who they are become crushed when they emerge into the adult world and find that affirmation is often tied to productivity?  Or is it?  Or will it be?  Can society function on the basis that everything is OK?  Will criticism and qualitative measurements of value cease?  I know literary critics who affirm that everything is art.  They do this in an attempt to deconstruct hierarchies and elitism.  I see disastrous consequences already in the art world as a result of this ideology.  I shudder to imagine how the world will function if a similar ideology takes hold.  Perhaps we are seeing it even now.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Tash
    Apr 15, 2017 @ 08:31:39

    Your always right and thoughtful!

    Like

    Reply

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