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Today in
S.C.V. History
January 29
1945 - Local residents vote 1,184 to 7 (correct, seven) to create SCV high school district [story]


The Real Side | Commentary by Joe Messina
| Monday, Jun 24, 2013

joemessinamugWhen I was a child, we were told to work hard, be honest, do your best, stand out, run faster, push, push, push. That’s how you get ahead.

That is so old-school.

No, no, Johnny. Don’t strain yourself. Come over here, grab this Xbox controller and relax. Johnny, put that homework away. You look stressed. Grab this Gameboy and blow off some steam.

We aren’t pushing our kids to do anything.

Back in the early ’80s, the psychobabologists (experts in psycho-babble – and yes, I know it’s not really a word) got together and decided  we were tearing down our young people’s self-esteem by grading them and having winners and losers in sports. According to a University of Michigan study, grading a student was “degrading” because the student based his or her worth on their grades.

I say, humbug.

The study concluded that low self-esteem led to poor health and potentially more involvement in criminal behavior. It said bad grades are usually attributed to poor communities. But do grades cause low self-esteem, which then has a domino effect?

Kids from all walks of life get bad grades, behave badly in school, and so on. But for now, let’s discuss what these psychobabologists are selling: the idea that grades degrade kids.

Most wealthy people from “the hood” got out by working harder, getting a better education, getting off of the streets, and aspiring to be something other than a hoodlum.

Those who work harder and have better grades tend to get into college easier and for less money (through grants and scholarships). Why? Does it mean they are worth more? No, it means they worked harder, wanted more for themselves, had a vision, and were willing to push toward it to get the grades needed to get out of their situation.

On the liberal side of the fence, the Whoopi Goldberg story: sleeping in her car with her kids and on welfare. She wanted more. Does that make her a bad person? No. She made it out of her situation. Good for her.

On the conservative side, there’s Star Parker with a similar story. She, too, came out of it.

Both were black, single females on welfare, who wanted a better life for themselves and their children. They were willing to work hard to achieve it. They used the tools available to them, got ahead, and got off of the government support system. God bless them both.

Both are great examples of what America is meant to be. It doesn’t seem that either of them have any self-esteem or self-worth issues. And I’ll bet both of them received grades.

And then there’s the criticism of keeping score, and recommendations that there should be no scorekeeping. Scorekeeping is bad. It makes the kids feel bad about themselves when they lose. Seriously? Yes, according to the psychobabologists.

I suppose this also means we should get rid of professional sports, the Olympics and academic decathlons. After all, why would we, as enlightened human beings, want to make so many people feel so badly about themselves – to the point of lowering their self-esteem and self-worth, thereby making them sick and causing them to go into a life of crime?

That is the inference that’s being made. Crazy, huh?

Major inventions and successful businesses, too numerous to mention, have followed failure, or someone else beating them to market with a product. Those losses are what make us stronger, better and more caring people.

Making everyone the same breeds mediocrity. No scores, no winners or losers, no grades. Why bother?

A 2001 Sports Illustrated study showed that a large portion of children who started playing organized sports by age 6 usually quit by age 13 because they were no longer having any fun. There is a lesson here, that we are losing in America. How badly do you want it?

This is a great lesson for children. Tell little Johnny and Suzie that competition is not always fun. Competition can be painful and disappointing. Getting to the top is not always fun, and it’s not easy. But when you get there and you look back at all the hard work, you can say, “I did it,” “I built it” – not the government – and “it was worth it.”

Low self-esteem isn’t avoided by an absence of failure. Real self-esteem is earned by recovering from and overcoming failures. Encouragement from family and friends helps, too. You learn that you really can do it if you don’t give up.

And when others look at you and know what you’ve been through to get where you are, your story can give them hope that they, too, can do what you have done.


Joe Messina is host of The Real Side (TheRealSide.com), a nationally syndicated talk show that runs on AM-1220 KHTS radio and SCVTV [here]. He is also an elected member of the Hart School Board. His commentary normally publishes Mondays.

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