Every kid gets a medal

Bring up “every kid gets a medal” at just about any public forum in American today and you’re in for an engaged conversation.  The idea that every kid who plays on a youth sports team (soccer, baseball, hockey), competes in any kind of tournament (spelling, geography, fencing,  martial arts, etc.), or seemingly any other competitive endeavor should receive a reward for their participation has driven many Americans crazy for years.  There’s no shortage of articles and editorials for, against, and unsure.

The discussion about every kid gets a medal provides an interesting lens into the different paradigms of human consciousness.

Pluralistic Green

Acting from a pluralistic green mindset, giving every child a medal makes perfect sense.  Every child participated in the event; therefore, every child should receive recognition for their effort.  The dominant organizational metaphor in the green stage is the family.  In a family you don’t leave members out.  In many, or even most, families everybody gets a slice of pizza at the dinner table, everybody gets their turn to pick the movie for movie night, and everybody does their share of the chores.

Achievement Orange

For sure, some families operate more in an amber of orange setting.  Only mom and dad get to use the “because I said so” rationale for decision making – mom and dad at their amber best.  Orange culture rewards children for their good grades.  The child who makes honor role gets taken out for dinner at their favorite restaurant.

People who experienced childhood competition in an orange setting likely appreciate the value of rewarding achievement.  By disassociating the hard work put into the competition from the reward they see children missing out on a valuable learning opportunity.  The lesson that hard work is rewarded is now replaced with all work is rewarded; or worse, that just showing up – and not working – is still rewarded.

Operating from the orange paradigm, one could easily be aghast at the idea of all of the children receiving a medal.  They didn’t earn it!

Evolutionary Teal

So how should medals be given out in an evolutionary teal way?  In a teal organization the individuals manage themselves.  They collectively hold each other accountable and respect the responsibility that has been given to them.  A teal soccer team may choose collectively who should receive a medal, or perhaps whether to have medals given out at all.

In order for this approach to be taken, however, trust must be extended to the participants.  The greater issue with every kid gets a medal may ultimately be that adults are doing too much of the decision making.

Additional reading

Why Do American Students Have So Little Power?
Amanda Ripley of The Atlantic examines the push back against students having more say in their education.


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