Social Promotion the backlash against criticism
By JChandler on March 22, 2010
How do you feel about somebody receiving a promotion when clearly they didn't deserve it?
This person or persons can't communicate effectively, consistently doesn't complete their projects on time or does a substandard job. They have little understanding of the mission, most of the time you see them playing catch up with the help of other staff and yet they get a promotion and an increase in pay. They can barely read, can't spell, their math skills are non-existent and they have done nothing to warrant a promotion other than show up.
You and most of your other colleagues have fully grasped the fundamentals of your positions, seek additional training to boost your contribution and feel confident in your abilities. However, that doesn't matter because everyone is treated the same and the goal is to be shielded from criticism or damaged self esteem. Everyone is free to move up the ladder even if they were truly attempting to be better at their job but couldn't grasp the position. They still were able to land right in the same position as you or even surpassed that position.
This is the state of an educational system that embraces social promotion. Afraid that little Johnny's or Joanie's self esteem will be destroyed it appears necessary to pass them through the school system despite the fact they have not completed the class requirements. Fearing criticism will sink Joanie's confidence level, we'll keep telling her that she has not failed but simply postponed her success. She can make it up next time, not to worry.
Johnny gets points just for being in class, he has a choice as to whether he will pay attention or not, he has been able to make his own choices since he was two and half years old. Joanie had three out of ten questions right on her exam; she received a positive comment from her teacher which made her feel so good about her effort. It is not important that she or he learns it is important that he/she feels good about who they are. Johnny is graduating next year he doesn't feel good about his job prospects and he has had difficulty filling out the job applications.
These were real examples of what is happening in today's parental/academic world.
I, as a self esteem coach, do not subscribe to the philosophy that one is damaged by hearing criticism in fact I would encourage it. Knowing how to hear, accept and learn from criticism is important in the business world. The new age self esteem movement has blown things way out of proportion, it no longer resembles the true definitions associated with self esteem building. Everything is based on outside sources so the likelihood of self awareness is almost non-existent.
Maybe in a parents world and now in the schools, little Johnny is so "special", but when he comes to work for a company the competition is tight. That is another downfall, the removal of competition. What a lame idea that was, to make every kid think he/she is automatically a winner. In real life there are winners and losers. By losing we learn more about ourselves, can face challenges head on which in turn makes us stronger. It is important to have something to strive for personally and professionally and it is extremely boring to think that an A can be obtained or a gold medal received by everyone no matter what they do!
Teaching children and making them accountable to someone and/or something is not cruel, it is validating. It is a true disservice when a parent or the system itself promotes a child knowing full well they are undeserving of the step forward. Do we truly think that child is not aware they are unprepared? How do they learn to feel the joy of true achievement when it is not expected? Why is it that we can give less but always want more?
Has the age of entitlement with its backlash against criticism and discipline gone to far?
I have worked with employers who have seen some challenges in employing youth. More often than not I received calls from employers because of poor attitudes on the job; the employee felt what they were asked to do was beneath them. I witnessed disrespectful language thrown back at an employer when they provided constructive criticism. Countless stories of young women and men who can't do basic tasks because they were never expected to do so in their own homes or in school, so why expect them to do so on the job. Many employers felt the frustration of hiring youth because they always wanted to receive more money and bonuses without having been there long enough warrant the increase. In other words they wanted a promotion without earning it.
Social promotion in my estimation doesn't help a person's self esteem and it doesn't prepare them for a healthy, successful future. It places some parents in the position to have to fight to keep their child back knowing fully well they are not ready for the next grade. It places teachers who are opposed to it in a position to go with the status quo by inflating grades or knowingly passing a child who has not obtained the knowledge necessary to meet future requirements. It places the child in the position of being ill prepared for adult life and learning which I have seen time and time again with my own clients.
In order to be competitive in the world we must demand more from our educational system. Just because Johnny or Joanie graduates doesn't mean she/he deserved too. It could be a case of passing along the problem and hoping it will all work out in the end. There are no winners in that game and I know as I'm am the recipient of passing grades in Math without ever having fully understood most of the lessons. It wasn't till I graduated that I realized that was a bum deal.
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