Thursday, May 09, 2013
"Awards aren't important," she said, displaying hers.
I wasn't a big achiever in college, but I did manage to get into an honor society. It wasn't terribly high profile anywhere, and I think it went inactive in the '70's or shortly thereafter.
Delta Tau Kappa was a social sciences honorary. Requirements (if I recall correctly) were to earn some level of A grades in social science classes, and have a B-average in general. We're not talking Phi-Bete, here. Cool. I can do that.
We got certificates and gold pins and, I cringe as I remember it, I gave my pin to my ex. As a token of my ... um ... esteem. And I do not mean that I did so during the Soul Mates phase, but toward the end when things were bad and I was being told repeatedly that I was uncaring and unsharing and blah blah blah.
What a wasted gesture. My membership should have been rescinded for that level of stupidity alone.
Years ago I started checking Ebay for a replacement. Back then, the "notify me" period expired in 30 days. Several tries yielded no pins, and I gave up notifications. I checked sporadically, but less often as time went by.
This week, something spurred me to try again. Somebody was offering one!!
It's ba-a-ack! Not my original - I got the history of this one from the seller. No, this is an identical pin. And for ridiculous reasons, I'm just over the moon to get it.
Should I pontificate about whether/why my honor society pin matters?
Oh what the hell, why not. Blogging is dead but I am a cat and I resist change.
I can blame some of it on Camp Gethsemane For Girls, which I wrote about right here years ago. I was a kid. I guess part of me is still a kid. I coveted that Gethsemane "G" and bought myself one later because I thought I deserved it. What these things are really about is belonging.
The fact is that I was mopey and not particularly warm, enthusiastic, or liked at camp, and what that really cost me was the lifelong friendship some of the girls have. However sukky the camp's standards were, some of the other girls, G-worthy girls, were warm, nice, smart, funny, very cool people who are in no way the Pious and Repressed.
But the Gethsemane awards had little to do with real life in other ways as well. Just in the past month, I have discovered some later lives of a couple of Gethsemane's GGirls that would have made make the camp's leaders' hair follicles shrivel then, and would make them burst a blood vessel now, when it's gone much more right-wing evangelical than it was in my relatively preppie/high-church day.
Awards. Here's my thing about awards, especially awards for children and teens.
Of course they should not be just handed out to everybody like the whole trophies-for-all trend. But they should be based on clear objectives and actions and/or a definable achievement level. That doesn't mean everybody earns a cup. Not getting one is part of refining your sense of self and learning what you are good at and not so good at.
But the Gethsemane G had no criteria. It was given if they liked you. What does this teach? That sometimes you can be rejected based not on what you do, but simply on an indefinable assessment of who you are?
Before you say that's real life - yep. That doesn't make it a teaching tool of any value whatsoever. If you want to teach kids to work toward a goal, tell them how and evaluate them objectively for it.
My attitude and achievement probably really did not merit one, but I know of several other kids whose work and personalities very much did, and they too lost out. I was in good company.
A very nice ladylike girl, lots of awards-and-positions and really liked, looked up to by enough others to get her voted her team's leader, never made that lifelong Gold G society, the Honor Circle. Over and over, selection after selection, and since everybody else in that camp echelon was in, it looked aggressive on the part of the director. I remember others just laughing, saying "Everybody knows that Mrs. D doesn't like Sue." [name changed]
Man, I hope Sue became a punk rock star.
One kid -- let's call her "Lee" -- was the sweetest, best, most genuine embodiment of Gethsemane Values you could ask for. Our first year there, she got a G. This was The Sixties, and apparently her parents decided to become Buddhists during that following year. For some unknown reason Lee wasn't G material that next year. Another friend also missed out on the G, and that one I could never even come up with a theory about, except that she was from a distant state and unlikely to bring the camp more applicants no matter how she exulted around her home town about how great it was. That's all I can come up with.
I think all us losers need to get over Award Damage, but maybe it's actually winners who have a harder time. If we succeed in getting core-self affirmation from awards, we never make a clean break with over-valuing them. I could write about how I wanted the pin because I want to just re-gather lost stuff that my big life crisis deprived me of, but yall'd see through that and even if you didn't, it's not the real reason. I care about having gotten into DTK, and feel a little uncomfortable with caring.
That's why sane award giving is so vital for kids with developing minds and values. We see it in headlines, how no later acceptance and success can completely undo outsider status in childhood when it's particularly hurtful and sanctioned by the Authority we want kids to accept and work to be part of.
Give them a girl of an impressionable age and she's theirs for life.....