When Did Mediocrity Become Excellence?

Posted on: August 3, 2011

Several years ago, I worked in management. I was the Loss Prevention Team Leader at a store in a fairly large chain. I was not a rent-a-cop, just for the record. This job position was part of the overall management team in the store. As such, I participated in management meetings where we often discussed how best to motivate the employees. One idea that came down the pike was to use these little coupons that were good for one candy bar. The idea was to reward an employee you saw going above and beyond the call of duty with one of these coupons. Not a bad idea, I thought. But it didn’t take long before employees came to expect getting these coupons, just for doing the basics of their job. In fact, one manager began handing them out to employees just for showing up for work!

Personally, I’ve always felt your “reward” for doing your job was the paycheck at the end of the week. If you go substantially beyond your normal duties in the interest of doing a great job, then sure, you might deserve to get a little something extra. But, to get a special treat just for clocking in on time?

I know every generation looks down upon the following one. At times, I feel as though I’m turning into a grumpy old curmudgeon, bitching like I’m the just-caught villain in a Scooby-Doo cartoon and upset about “…those meddling kids!” But, facts are facts. The younger generation today is all about entitlement. What can YOU do for ME? And this has been going on for quite some time now.

Society encourages this by rewarding mediocrity like it is excellence. We don’t have losers anymore in juvenile athletics. EVERYONE gets a ribbon or trophy, just for playing along. We’re ALL winners! This, quite frankly, is a load of crap. I’m not saying we should discourage kids from trying. I’m just saying that by treating them in this way, they become “programmed” to expect it throughout their lives. Heaven forbid one of these kids faces the reality that they just aren’t absolutely perfect human beings.

Academically, they are graded on a curve in many classes or other means are implemented so as to prevent any student from feeling even slightly inferior. Much of the time, teachers are hamstrung from the get go, what with all this “No Child Left Behind” nonsense. The predictable result of No Child Left Behind is No Child Gets a Quality Education.

Kids all have different abilities, different talents. Part of the job of both parents and professional educators should be to help kids determine their individual talents and how to best use them in their lives. Being able to fog a mirror should not be considered a major talent and it certainly isn’t a skill worthy of reward.

When did mediocrity become excellence? Well, my buddy John Burks might have the right of it when he says, “When we tried making everyone the same.”

7 thoughts on “When Did Mediocrity Become Excellence?

  1. ” The younger generation today is all about entitlement.” That may be right, but let’s not forget, these traits are usually inherited from their parents. And it was precisely in the generation before that entitlements became the panacea for all social woes. The next generation will see these things crumble under their feet, they will see themselves turned out of old peoples’ homes, and then THEIR offspring will be all about self-reliance. And then the circle may start again.

  2. I hate to say it, but i have sort of given in to mediocrity. When i first started my job, i used to bust my tail cleaning and organizing instead of sitting on my duff watching tv. Then i received a small token of appreciation from my supervisor and was touched that my efforts were noticed. Then i found out everyone got the same gift for Employee Appreciation week. Then a few years went by and i continued making the same amount of money as the couch-jockeys who sat on their butts texting all day (and were never penalized for it), so now i do just enough work to fly under the radar and avoid write-ups. Communism doesn’t work

  3. R.E. Johnnie I.

    Relying on “spellcheck” is pure lazyness. You say that you are educated? One of the basic needs of an education should be that you know how to properly spell. Times have changed immensily. It is idealists like you who created this “No Child Left Behind” that has now caused us to be the 28th. country in the world when it comes to education. How about not lowering your standards to meet others and make them come up to yours? That is trully what will make this country as great as it once was.

  4. I can read 800 hundred words a minute and can tell that a word is miss spelled but can’t for the life of me tell you how it is to be spelled grammar and punctuation is another mystery thank god for spellcheck Oh I graduated in 1963 so maybe things haven’t changed that much

  5. You bring up a great point about Facebook (and other social networking sites). I understand that these sites are informal by their very nature but it literally sickens me to see how poorly many people write on those sites. These folks can’t even handle the most basic grammar and spelling.

  6. So true, Jim. I have an in-law that’s a teacher and happened to read some of the papers her students turned in for grading. Misspellings, grammar and so on were prevalent and I asked her why she isn’t marking down for these things. She said that kids have computers now that correct for them. I was aghast. I would never hire someone that didn’t have basic English skills. All you have to do is look at Facebook and see the state of our education system. Shameful!

  7. When my wife was a school teacher many years ago, we were talking about the efforts and resulting grades of her students. I was amazed that the bell curve no longer applied. I expected that most students would receive a C, fewer would receive B’s and D’s, and still fewer would be at the outer ends of the bell curve A’s and F’s. I supposed that C was average and thus since most people are, by definition average, that would have the highest concentration of students.

    But I was wrong. Most received A’s and B’s. To do anything else would be to invite scrutiny by the administration and complaints from the parents.

    Times have changed since I was in school I guess.

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