Woody: Kids playing dumb

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Awhile back I came across a story about a soccer mom who was concerned about her tyke's lack of scoring, and had an idea about how to fix it.

She suggested making the net bigger.

That way little Timmy wouldn't have to work harder in order to kick the ball in the net.

It's a sign of the times: anytime we face a challenge, we simply make the net bigger.

Not to get too deep here, but we're seeing it happen in some of our public schools. Instead of trying to inspire students to work more diligently in order to make better grades, lower the grading system.

Presto: a C becomes an A. Hello Honor Roll.

See how easy that was?

"Easy" has become the operative word. I'm surprised someone hasn't made "Easy Does It" our national motto.

If we get fat we don't diet and exercise to lose the lard. We just buy bigger pants.

That's what it's all about: making it easy. Studying enough to warrant an A is too hard, like trying to kick a soccer ball in a standard-sized net. So we fix it to make sure nobody ever flunks a class and Timmy never misses another kick.

No wonder we're in the mess we're in. We're being dumbed-down and politically-pampered back to the Stone Age.

In these touchy-feely, warm-and-fuzzy times, nobody dares to risk hurting anybody's feelings -- even if they deserve to be hurt. We demand rainbows and butterflies all the time for everyone.

That's why some sports leagues give "participation medals" to losers.

(I realize that "losers" is an offensive term these days, but it's a hard habit to break. I grew up in a time when if you held a competition, someone won. He was the "winner." The one who lost was the "loser."

Instead of moping around and sulking, the "loser" was expected to work harder and try harder and maybe next time he would be the "winner."

Nowadays a loser -- pardon me, a "non-winner" -- is placated with a "participation medal."

As a kid I wasn't a particularly gifted athlete. I lost about as often as I won. But if someone had offered me a "participation medal" after a loss, I'd have told them where they could put it. And it wouldn't be around my neck.

Woody Allen once said: "Ninety percent of success is just showing up." Evidently that's changed to one hundred percent. Today if you just show up, that's good enough to get a medal.

That's OK for little kids; nobody is suggesting that the tyke who finds the fewest eggs in the Easter Egg Hunt be booed off the playground. And I don't have a problem with a kindergarten kid getting a gold star on his drawing of a horse that looks more like a space ship -- or vice-versa. Give the urchin an encouraging pat on the head and hopefully he'll keep working on his artwork.

But at some point they need to grow up. They have to understand they won't always be awarded an A for C-minus work, and being given a "participation medal" for losing is not an accomplishment. It just means you got to the game on time.

If a kid wants to play competitive sports, he or she needs to understand there will be a winner and a loser. Being a winner should make you feel good. Being a loser should make you try harder not to be one next time.

Or at least that's the way it used to work. Back before they started making the nets bigger.

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Larry Woody
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